Skiers put Yukon front and centre on Olympic stage
Whitehorse's Emily Nishikawa and Dahria Beatty made up Team Canada for cross country race
If there was any doubt about Yukon's cross country skiing prowess, the 2018 Olympics have solidified the territory as a force to be reckoned with when it comes to the sport.
On Wednesday in Pyeongchang, Whitehorse skiers Emily Nishikawa and Dahria Beatty were front and centre on the Olympic stage, making up Team Canada in the women's cross-country ski team sprint semi-finals.
It's very special for the ski community here in Whitehorse- Alain Masson, Former Coach
"It was amazing to see our two Yukon women ski together and represent Canada," said Nishikawa's mother Joan Stanton, who along with husband Bob Nishikawa, made the trip to South Korea.
"Everyone was cheering them on, it was a really great feeling there," she said.
Nishikawa and Beatty are no strangers to competing together. The two, along with fellow Yukon Olympian Knute Johnsgaard, grew up skiing with and against one another at the Whitehorse Cross Country Ski Club, where they trained under the guidance of Alain Masson, a former Olympian himself.
Masson says watching the Olympic ski races this year has been very special, given his close connection to the athletes. He says having so many Yukoners competing on the Olympic stage at one time is historic.
"That's why it's so enjoyable and so interesting — because we've never had three Olympians at one Games," said Masson. "It's very special for the ski community here in Whitehorse, and for Whitehorse generally and the Yukon."
The decision to have an all-Yukon team for the sprint semis was only made a couple of days before the race. Coaches usually make the decision based on how the skiers have been performing up to that point.
"I was just ecstatic ... to have two Yukoners in the same event here, it was just amazing," said Bob Nishikawa.
A narrow miss to reach the finals
The Yukon duo started their Wednesday race strong, with Nishikawa getting into fourth place after two laps. They eventually finished seventh in their heat and 13th overall, narrowly missing a trip to the finals.
"We were right in there fighting with those teams, and I think we came something like 11 seconds short of what we needed. But that's the way it goes," said Beatty.
"I'm really proud of how [Nishikawa] skied and I felt really good out there today. And even though we didn't qualify, it was nice to be able to catch one team on the last lap and finish strong."
The race did feature a northern winner — Kikkan Randall of Alaska skied with the U.S. team that won the gold medal overall in the event.
There is still one more race in Pyeongchang for Nishikawa. She is set to compete in the 30-kilometre race this weekend.
Next month, Nishikawa's brother Graham takes the spotlight. He'll be skiing as a guide at the Paralympic Games where he'll be looking to repeat his performance from the 2014 Games in Sochi, where he guided visually impaired skier Brian McKeever to the gold medal.