On a cold, windy day at Sovereign Lake Nordic Center, sibling duo Graham and Emily Nishikawa (CNST/Alberta World Cup Academy) each added another NorAm win to their respective resumes in the lead-up to the Canmore World Cups next week.
The elder Nishikawa completed the men’s 15 k freestyle in 39:22.0, a full 18 seconds ahead of runner-up Michael Somppi (CNST/AWCA). David Greer (Yukon Elite Squad) took the bronze (+40.5).
“Today went well,” Nishikawa said. “Skate racing is my stronger technique, and I felt good.”
The result was a big improvement on his classic result the day before, in which a mid-race crash took him out of contention of the mass start and relegated him to ninth place.
“I’m feeling good, it’s starting to come together,” Nishikawa said of his early season results. “So far the races haven’t gone super well…so I’m looking forward to a good result in Canmore.”
The conditions on Sunday were blistery; a biting snow pummeled skiers as they took to the course in 15 second intervals.
“It was classic Silver Star,” Nishikawa said of the weather. “Soft, some snow, windy and cold — but pretty good.”
Somppi notched his second decent result of the weekend in taking the silver; he was fourth in the 15 k classic in Saturday. The narrow 15-second intervals between starters worked to his advantage; on the second lap Somppi had a train of skiers to race against after a “great” first lap.
“It was a fight, but I knew I was in podium contention so that helped spur me on,” Somppi said. “I’m happy to have ended up with second place. My fitness is feeling good right now and I am looking forward to the opportunity to test myself against the international field [in Canmore] next week.”
One of the skiers Somppi caught early on was Greer, who ended up in third.
“I got a good ride with him and skied in a train most of the race,” Greer said, who had looked forward to the individual-start race in particular.
Like many of the top Canadians competing this weekend, Greer wanted to dial in his race fitness prior to the Canmore World Cups.
“Each race seems to be getting better — today was better than yesterday — so I’m looking forward to next weeek. It should be fun,” he said.
Pate Neumann (Canmore) took fourth behind Greer (+54.7) and Aaron Gillmor (Rocky Mountain Racers) finished fifth (+56.6). Santi Ocariz (XC Oregon) posted the top American finish in sixth (+1:17.5).
Fewer international athletes started on Sunday relative to Saturday (Sweden’s Jens Eriksson, who won the 15 k classic, did not race), but New Zealand’s Andy Pohl put together a strong 11th-place showing (+1:48.4). As a tune-up for the Canmore World Cup, Pohl was pleased with his result.
“I’m pretty happy; I felt like I was making good ground through the field,” he said. “I was certainly suffering, so that’s the ticket.”
In the women’s division, Emily Nishikawa took the 10 k win by 7.1 seconds over Brittany Webster (Highlands Trailblazers). Frédérique Vézina (Mont Sainte Anne) finished third (+13.5).
“I was quite happy with the race; today was a lot better than yesterday,” Nishikawa said, who was fifth in the 10 k classic on Saturday.
“This is more what I was hoping for, so I’m glad I had a better race today.”
As in men’s race the women had to contend with uncomfortable weather, but Nishikawa said it was typical of the venue.
“It was like freezing rain almost; it stings your face a little bit and my glasses froze up, but it’s all part of Silver Star,” she said. “It’s always kind of snowing around here.”
With the Canmore races just around the corner, Nishikawa was glad for the confidence boost less than one week out of her fourth career World Cup appearance.
“My shape is coming along now, so I’m happy to get a good race under my belt before then; get a little confidence going into it,” she said. “It’s super exciting to race in a home town on trails you know so well.”
Webster, coming off of a decisive victory on Saturday, was pleased with her second podium finish of the weekend.
“I wanted to go out smooth; this course is sometimes tough and people blow up on the first hill. So I wanted to be conservative,” she said.
The 25-year-old is currently working back from an October surgery on her tibia, which was causing her “all sorts of pain and injury during the summer.” Since the operation Webster has focused on improving the weak points in her skating.
“I was excited to test the skating out,” Webster said. “I haven’t felt this strong skating in a long time, so it was nice to know that the work paid off.”
Webster started much earlier than the women who ended up leading, and skied without much split information.
“Starting way ahead of those other girls has its good and bad points,” she said. “The good being that you can ski relaxed and race your own race, the bad being that, on this day, I felt I really needed that individual I was chasing in front, or that person behind me to really push me to my limits.
“In general, I just learned today that if you give an inch, or two or three, they always, always add up to seconds, and that’s just what happened.”
— Gerry Furseth contributed reporting.
Audrey Mangan (@audreymangan) is an Associate Editor at FasterSkier and lives in Colorado. She learned to love skiing at home in Western New York.