Emily Nishikawa, Jesse Cockney heading to Olympics

Emily Nishikawa of Whitehorse, and Jesse Cockney, who is originally from Yellowknife, have been named to Canada's Olympic cross-country ski team.

Nishikawa is 1st Yukoner to go to Winter Olympics in 22 years

Randy Henderson speaks with Jesse Cockney and Emily Nishikawa 4:36

Two northerners have been named to Canada's Olympic cross-country ski team. 

Jesse Cockney and Emily Nishikawa are among 11 athletes who will make up the team. 

Emily Nishikawa receiving her first medal circa 1995 at age six.

Cockney, an Inuvialuk from Yellowknife, now lives in Canmore. Emily Nishikawa grew up in Whitehorse. 

The two skiers were among five northerners who took part in the cross-country qualifying races in Canmore, Alta. earlier this month. 

N.W.T. athletes Brendan Green, a biathlete, and Michael Gilday, a speedskater, are also heading to the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

In a tweet, Gilday pointed out there are now four Arctic Winter Games alumni on the Canadian Olympic team this year: himself, Nishikawa, Green and Graeme Killick of Fort McMurray, Alta. 

Killick was also named to Canada's cross-country ski team this morning. 

Nishikawa 'always wanted to compete in the Olympics'

Nishikawa is Yukon's first winter Olympian in 22 years — since Lucy Steele and Jane Vincent competed at the Albertville games of 1992.

"It's been a long time coming," Nishikawa said. "I've been skiing since I was four years old. I joined the Yukon ski team at 13. I've been a member of the national team for the past three years, so this has been basically my whole life." 

"Since I was a child, I've always wanted to compete at the Olympics." 

Nishikawa's parents are also excited. They're scrambling to get tickets so they can cheer Emily on in Sochi. 

They say she could be competing in up to four races.

Cockney credits TEST ski program

Cockney gave credit to the experimental cross-country ski program in the Mackenzie Delta which taught his father, Angus, how to ski and compete.

"That program really changed my dad's life. Without that program in my dad's life, I probably wouldn't be a cross country skier.”

Jesse also pointed to former Olympian Beckie Scott as an inspiration.

"We saw that Becky took bronze in that race. That was such a fantastic moment for us. To think Canadians can really compete with the rest of the world, that was a real kind of turning point to me. To think that skiing is something I can achieve my dream of being the fastest man in the world with."

Beckie Scott was also at the announcement today. She said N.W.T. Olympians Sharon and Shirley Firth, who were also part of the experimental ski program, helped pave the way for her success.   

"When I was growing up cross-country skiing in Vermilion, Alta., there were two aboriginal twin sisters from the N.W.T. — a town called Aklavik way up north — that were breaking down barriers and racing for the Canadian national team and doing extraordinary things for our sport."

Angus Cockney couldn’t be more proud of his son.

“It was important for us to introduce him to an outdoor lifestyle and a healthy way of living and cross country skiing was certainly the way.”

“Excuse me for getting emotional,” he said. “It's great to see, right? I think in the end he would be a great role model for the Aboriginal people across Canada, especially in the North where kids don't have the opportunity. But certainly a lot of kids up there have the ability."

The Winter Olympics in Sochi begin Feb. 7.