North

Yukon cross-country skiers ready for their Olympic debut

'It's starting to sink in,' says Whitehorse's Dahria Beatty, now just a few weeks away from race time in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Dahria Beatty, Knute Johnsgaard headed to Pyeongchang next month

Dahria Beatty has skied on Canada's national team since 2014. She's heading to Pyeongchang, South Korea, next month to compete in her first Olympic Games. Knute Johnsgaard, seen at right, is also going. (David Croft/CBC)

They've been working toward it for years, and now Dahria Beatty and Knute Johnsgaard are just a few weeks away from their first Olympic Games.

"It's starting to sink in," said Beatty. "It feels amazing. It's been a dream of mine since I was 10 years old at my first Arctic Winter Games."

Beatty, 23, and Johnsgaard, 25, are Olympic first-timers. They'll be joined in Pyeongchang next month by fellow Whitehorse Olympian Emily Nishikawa, who will be at her second Olympic Games (after Sochi, Russia, in 2014). Nishikawa's brother Graham Nishikawa will also be in Pyeongchang as a ski guide at the Paralympic Games.

Like Beatty, Johnsgaard says going to the Games will be the culmination of years of work and dreaming.

"I'm really ecstatic to be named to the team, and just really excited to be going to the Olympics," he said. "Hopefully, I can be competitive, but for me the ultimate goal was just to make it there." 

'Hopefully, I can be competitive, but for me the ultimate goal was just to make it there,' said Knute Johnsgaard. (NordicFocus)

'Amazing ski community'

Beatty — now training with the national team in Canmore, Alta. — says she's often asked at international competitions how a small community like Whitehorse can produce so many competitive skiers.

"I always say it comes from the amazing ski community we have," she said.

Johnsgaard credits the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club, and its programs that allow young athletes to flourish. 

"All of us that are going to the Games, we all graduated through the squad program at the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club and it's definitely proven successful," he said.

"It's certainly quite amazing when you look at our small population, and how we're making up 30 or 40 per cent of the entire Olympic cross-country ski team."  

Fans pose with a cardboard cut-out of Olympian Emily Nishikawa, in 2014. Nishikawa is also competing in Pyeongchang this year. (Cheryl Kawaja/CBC)

Beatty says the Whitehorse club has always been incredibly supportive. She remembers when the national team was at the world championships, the Whitehorse club sent a signed Canadian flag, as a show of support.

"Just the little things like that, knowing that they're all there cheering and supporting and checking the results, and being proud no matter how you do, is such a nice feeling to have when you're on the start line," she said.

With files from Sandi Coleman

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