If Drew Goldsack and Graham Nishikawa were not already familiar with each other, they should be by now.
That’s because the two Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) athletes are locked in a tight battle over the top spot in the NorAm rankings – and the battle became even closer after this weekend, as Goldsack won the NorAm mini-tour in Kelowna, B.C.
Goldsack, also a member of the Canadian National Ski Team (CNST) emerged victorious Sunday, as he narrowly beat Nishikawa to the line by .3 of a second in the 15 k freestyle handicap start event. Brian McKeever, who is Canada’s premiere Para-Nordic athlete, and also a great able-bodied skier, finished third, 1:00.9 back of Goldsack.
It was a sloppy day in Kelowna – fresh snow had fallen, and the race was a bit of a slog through deep powder.
Goldsack started with a 15 second lead over Nishikawa, but the conditions severely affected the race.
“It was snowing pretty heavy when we started,” said Goldsack in an interview with FasterSkier. “It was tough out front.”
Shortly after the start, Nishikawa reeled in Stefan Kuhn (CNST), and then around 4 k in the two connected with Goldsack.
At that point, Goldsack tried to keep the lead and gap Nishikawa, but the snow prevented him from making any head way. Goldsack then settled in for the sprint finish against Kuhn and Nishikawa. At around 5 k, Nishikawa and Goldsack skied away from Kuhn, turning it into a two-man race.
Goldsack and Nishikawa then skied together, until Nishikawa launched a big attack on the last hard climb.
“He [Nishikawa] tried to break me,” said Goldsack. “Luckily I was able to hang on.”
Goldsack did more than hang on – in what he described as a “crazy long” finishing stretch, Goldsack pulled away from Nishikawa for the win.
The win sets up both skiers for a furious finish in Ottawa, Ontario, next weekend, as they contest the final NorAm race on the circuit to determine the World Cup start slots for the spring World Cup events.
Next weekend offers a big challenge – the three days of racing culminate with a 30 k event.
“It’ll be a challenge for sure,” Goldsack said. “30 k is not exactly my strength.”
And if you wanted to know who Goldsack would have put his considerable prize money on in the Super Bowl following his big win this weeked
“Before the game started, the Green Bay Packers, but right now, the Pittsburgh Steelers,” he said, part-way through the third quarter on Sunday evening.
Jones Dominates Field
Perianne Jones (CNST) had nowhere near the challenge that Goldsack had. She started by herself, and skied the two-loop 10 k freestyle course all by herself.
Jones crossed the line 2 minutes and 27.8 seconds ahead of Maya MacIsaac-Jones of the Rocky Mountain Racers (RMR), while Andrea Dupont (RMR) narrowly lost out on the second step of the podium, finishing 2 minutes and 29 seconds back of Jones.
While Perianne Jones put on an impressive performance, the fact that no other National Team women were present does put a bit of a damper on her win.
For MacIsaac-Jones, however, finishing second in a NorAm event is a huge. She is just 15 years old, and finishing high up the NorAm rankings is a sign of good things to come.
Perianne Jones now switches her focus from domestic racing to World Championships – she departs Wednesday, February 9th, for Europe, where she will train in Lillehammer, Norway, and then contend the World Cup event in Drammen, Norway, before moving on to Oslo for the Championships.