Canadian Graham Nishikawa’s three-win weekend may not bring him up to the same number of wins as Norway’s Marit Bjoergen, but on Sunday the dominating domestic racer put on a skiing display worthy of the legendary Norwegian woman.
Nishikawa, a member of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA), finished the 15 k freestyle handicap start event with a whopping 2 minute 38.8 second lead over his nearest competitor, Drew Goldsack (AWCA/CNST), while Stefan Kuhn (CNST) rounded out the top three, 2 minutes 57 seconds back of Nishikawa’s time.
The second-fastest time of the day belonged to Pate Neumann (AWCA), who used his strong skate ability to move into fourth in the final standings.
Nishikawa, who had already earned top honors in the previous two races, started the day with a 30 second lead over his nearest competitor, and remained undefeated on the weekend.
“I knew that today I had to try and stay out front and solo from the line,” he said in an e-mail to FasterSkier.
He did just that, never letting either Goldsack or Kuhn get within striking distance on his way to the large margin of victory.
“I didn’t get any splits, but I would look back every so often to make sure no one was coming,” he said.
“I tried to stay very relaxed and have consistent laps [4x5km for 20km],” said Nishikawa. “It was a great race capping off a great weekend.”
Nishikawa now takes aim at two more mini-tours on the next two weekends. He will hit Western Canadian Championships, a Haywood NorAm mini-tour event being held in Kelowna, B.C., and then will be back in Eastern Canada to contend the NorAm mini-tour at Eastern Canadian Championships February 11, 12 and 13.
Meanwhile, U.S. Ski Team (USST) member Liz Stephen also put on a commanding performance Sunday to claim the overall victory.
Over the 10 k course, Stephen skated to a 2 minute 37.1 second win over Brittney Webster (AWCA/CNST). Alana Thomas of the Nakkertok Ski Club finished third, just edging out Stephanie Drolet by .3 of a second to earn the last spot on the overall podium.
After starting the mini-tour slowly with a fourth place finish, and then making up time Saturday to draw even with Webster, Stephen put herself in a position to dominate the 10 k freestyle handicap start.
Stephen and Webster actually started the day dead even – they left the start line at the same time. However, Stephen clearly had more to give, beating Webster handily, and the nearest athlete was over two and a half minutes back of her time for the day.
Thomas actually had the second fastest time on the day behind Stephen, beating Webster by 3 seconds, and as a result moved up an impressive four places from seventh on the start list into the podium position.
The Haywood NorAm series continues next weekend with Western Canadian Championships, as the Canadians will tackle another mini-tour, featuring prologue, sprint, and handicap start events hosted by Telemark Ski Club in Kelowna, B.C.