Three Whitehorse cross-country skiers are poised to put on the red maple leaf and represent Canada at the upcoming Olympic Games in South Korea – two for the first time.
It is all but official for Dahria Beatty who met the national selection criteria a while back and it is now starting to hit the Yukon skier.
“It’s definitely been a dream for more than 10 years,” Beatty said. “When I met the qualification criteria it felt surreal and so far away it didn’t really hit me. Yesterday was the one month mark until the opening ceremonies.”
And in her first experience, Beatty won’t be going through it alone.
She will be joined by Olympic veteran Emily Nishikawa from Whitehorse.
“It’s amazing. I’ve been training with Emily for the last five years since I moved to Canmore,” Beatty said noting the two actually never trained together with Cross Country Yukon because of the age gap between the two athletes.
She said Nishikawa as well as the experienced athletes she is surrounded by in training for the Games have giving her tips and advice in helping her prepare for the competition of a lifetime.
“They’re helping prepare me for what’s to come, to enjoy the atmosphere and use it as positive energy instead of stress,” she said. “Treat the races like any other race, do everything the same as every other race and absorb the positive excitement from the race.”
Knute Johnsgaard, who Beatty has been training with in Yukon since they were 10 years old, is also expected to be named to his first Olympic team depending on the number of athletes that will be allowed on the cross-country ski team.
“To have a big presence from such a small community, I’m really proud to go to the Olympics the three of us,” Beatty said. “It’s really exciting and makes it all the more special to have teammates from home with you.”
Following a self-assessed “disappointing” start to the World Cup season in Europe, Beatty returned to Whitehorse for the holidays to re-energize for the new year.
“It was so nice to come home, so much support and encouragement from entire ski community and the Whitehorse community in general.
It really gives you that extra confidence and belief in yourself when so many people are routing for you and so excited for you,” Beatty said.
Beatty decided to stay in Canada to compete in the NorAm Trials this past weekend instead of returning to the World Cup circuit in Europe to compete in the Tour de Ski.
Out of the four races, Beatty won both the classic and skate sprints in the senior women’s division and placed third in the 15-kilometre skiathlon.
In the final race, Beatty placed fifth in the 10-kilometre classic in the races that also served as Olympic trials for those who haven’t already met the criteria.
Beatty said she has seen recent improvements in her racing, but there is still room to go.
“It still has some progress to make, I definitely felt better sprinting here this past week then I did over in Europe before Christmas so that’s a positive sign,” she said. “In the distance races I still feel like there’s some room to work, and there’s still a month so I’m confident with some good altitude training I’m going in the right direction and the amazing
feeling races will come at the right time.”
Also at the Canadian races in Canmore, Beatty was reunited with Cross Country Yukon coach Alain Masson and younger members of the team competing in the junior trials in which Natalie Hynes qualified for her third national team.
“Our race in the skiathlon started just as the junior women’s race was finishing and I got to cheer on Natalie into the finish so that was very exciting to see her,” Beatty said.
There are six cross-country ski events at the Olympic Games and Beatty said she hopes to compete in five of them starting with the 15-km skiathlon on Feb. 10.
Beatty also plans to participate in the classic sprint race, one of the races she is keying in on as sprinting as a main strength.
She said she will likely not compete in the longer distance 30-km classic race, but is hoping to race the team relay and team sprint depending on health and performance throughout the Games.
Beatty along with the Canadian teammates will be heading back to Europe Monday for an altitude training camp in Italy followed by World Cup races in Austria, the final events ahead of the Olympics.