—Nishikawa wins third gold, Harvey fourth, in cross-country ski marathon—
WHITEHORSE—Emily Nishikawa and Alex Harvey are the big winners as the Haywood Ski Nationals came to a close in Whitehorse on Saturday.
The Olympic veterans proved they are the top women’s and men’s cross-country skiers in the country after smashing the field in the grueling 30- and 50-kilometre classic-ski races to cap off a long 2015-16 season.
Nishikawa, 26, captured her third gold medal of the week in the women’s marathon. The 2014 Olympian led wire-to-wire in the four laps around the 3.75 kilometre track. The hometown girl thrilled the Whitehorse crowd with a golden time of 1:43.12.168.
“That was a fun way to cap off the season. It has been so great getting the opportunity to race Nationals in Whitehorse,” said Nishikawa. “I had another great race today, and had a lot of fun out there! It has been inspiring watching the up and coming racers compete here. A huge congratulations to all as well as a big thank you to the volunteers for making this event such a success.”
Cendrine Browne, of St-Jérôme, Que., was the next best finisher more than three minutes off the pace at 1:46:57.714. Katherine Stewart-Jones, of Gatineau, Que., continued her steady finish to the season with another podium finish. Stewart-Jones grabbed her third bronze medal of the week with a time of 1:49:38.122.
Alex Harvey, meanwhile, will leave Whitehorse and the 2015-16 season with a perfect record at the Haywood Ski Nationals. Having won his first three starts, Harvey battled through the ultimate test at the national championships – a 50-kilometre classic-start for the men – where he edged out two of his World Cup teammates at the finish line.
Working well-ahead of the field as a pack of three, Harvey, Graeme Killick (Fort McMurray) and Ivan Babikov (Canmore, Alta.) jostled up and down the rolling Whitehorse terrain for the final Canadian Championship crown.
When all was said and done, it was the most successful Canuck on the men’s team this year, Harvey of Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., coming out on top with a time of 2:20:20.079.
“Mission accomplished,” said Harvey. “I’m happy to be done now. I’m pretty tired – exhausted actually both physically and mentally. Four wins though – you can’t ask for much more.”
Killick went head to head with Harvey until the finish, but came a hair short of taking down the leader of the men’s team, winning the silver medal with a time of 2:20:20.790.
“I was happy to challenge Alex a bit in the final metres but his finish is world class, and something I will try to work towards for next year,” said Killick. “It was nice to finish the season in Whitehorse on one of the most beautiful venues we get to ski at in Canada. They always manage to put together a fun, and well organized week.”
Ivan Babikov finished seven seconds off the pace in third with a time of 2:20:27.813. Both Killick and Babikov had solid performances this spring, cranking season and career-best performances during the eight-race Ski Tour Canada.
Marie Corriveau, of Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., won the junior women’s 20-kilometre start at 1:07:42.069. Quebec’s Antoine Blais won the junior men’s 30-kilometre race with a time of 1:32:39.716.