North

4 Northern cross-country skiers named to Canadian Olympic roster

One third of Canada's 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic cross-country ski team will hail from the territories.

4 of 11 cross-country skiers to represent Canada at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics will be from the North

Dahria Beatty and three other Northerners have been named to Canada's 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic cross-country ski team. (submitted by Bob Nishikawa)

Canada's 2018 Pyeongchang Olympic cross-country ski team will include four racers from the North.

Yellowknife's Jesse Cockney along with Whitehorse's Dahria Beatty, Emily Nishikawa, and Knute Johnsgaard will make up one-third of Canada's Olympic cross-country presence at the Games.

All four live and train in Canmore, Alta., but Beatty, 23, says if there's a secret to her success it's not where she trains now, but the community where her love for the sport first took hold.

"It's our great ski community, the awesome ski trails and support from the community and the club," Beatty said. "Having so many people skiing in such a great club, there's no secret other than that. We're just very lucky to be coming from such a good community."

Beatty has represented Canada internationally since the 2009/10 season. In 2017 she competed in her first FIS World Championships where she earned a 13th place finish in a team sprint and anchored Canada to a 10th place result in the 4x5 kilometre relay race. This will be Beatty's first Olympics.

Whitehorse's Emily Nishikawa has been named to Canada's Olympic cross-country ski team, for the second time.

Emily Nishikawa, 28, competed in the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but said that doesn't take anything away from the excitement surrounding being named to her second Games.

"I'm thrilled to be named to my second Olympic team, it's just as exciting as the first time," Nishikawa said.

She said most of the team is in Austria for their last competition before the Olympics. They fly out for Korea on Friday.

"It's a quick turnaround from this naming to when we actually leave for the Olympics. It's all happening very fast," Nishikawa said. "To have three of us from Whitehorse on the Olympic team this year is very special."

Knute Johnsgaard, second from right, and teammates celebrate their bronze in the men's relay 4x7.5 km competition at the FIS Cross Country skiing World Cup last year. The win earned Johnsgaard a spot on this year's Olympic team. (Adam Ihse/TT via The Associated Press)

Knute Johnsgaard, 25, was part of the 2017 World Cup team that took bronze in a relay event — the first time in the history of the Canadian ski program that a Canadian team had ever stood on the podium in a World Cup cross-country event. That finish earned him a slot on this year's Olympic team.

According to his biography on the Canadian Olympic Team website, Johnsgaard began skiing at age 6, and was competing internationally by the time he was 16.

Jesse Cockney, 28, who made his Olympic debut in 2014 in Sochi, began skiing at three years old. For Cockney, winning on skis runs in the family. Cockney's father Angus, born in Tuktoyaktuk, N.W.T., was a competitive skier as a young man, meaning Jesse grew up in a racing tradition. His family moved to Canmore when he was seven.

"Sochi was a very good lesson in how to prepare for championships," Cockney said. "I think I was too ambitious with the amount of training I did before the Games … that cost me my best potential days."

"This time around I'm being more mindful to monitor a few more physiological signs, take care of energy leading up to the Games."

Like others, Cockney knew he was to make the team before the formal decision was released Monday, but he said nothing beats the official word.

"I've known for weeks I was going to be named to the team, but it's just another feeling completely when it's on paper, in a press release, and calls start to come in … it's like a wave of positivity coming through again.

"Hopefully it carries through to Korea."

Jesse finished 10th place in an Olympic test classic sprint event last February.

Jesse Cockney, born in the N.W.T., is one of four Northerners named to Canada's 2018 Olympic cross-country ski team. (Aryn Toombs)

A fifth Northerner will be competing at the Games on skis. Hay River's Brendan Green has already been named to Canada's Olympic biathlon team.

With files from Sandi Coleman and Juanita Taylor

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