Canadian National Ski TeamCanadian NationalsGeneralNewsRacingGaiazova, Graham Nishikawa Finally Champions in Canadian Nationals Skate Sprints

Avatar Alex KochonMarch 21, 2014
Dasha Gaiazova leads Canadian World Cup teammate Perianne Jones in the senior women's 1.4 k freestyle sprint A-final at 2014 Canadian Nationals in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.
Dasha Gaiazova (l) leads Canadian World Cup teammate Perianne Jones in the senior women’s 1.4 k freestyle sprint A-final at 2014 Canadian Nationals on Thursday in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.

CORNER BROOK, Newfoundland — One the second-to-last day of Canadian Nationals racing in Corner Brook Newfoundland, Thursday saw the nation’s best line up behind the starting wand for the freestyle sprint qualifiers — and later on, the sprint heats.

The groomers tilled the course overnight, which, combined with the relatively mild temperatures of -7 degrees Celsius in the early morning warming up to around zero for the heats, to led to a fast course.

Olympian Amanda Ammar of Team Ninja in Canmore, Alberta, described the course as having “a lot of flat sections and gradual downhills so you really have to push the free-skate,” she said after the qualifier. “The couple uphills on the course are steep and pretty soft — you can get bogged down if you’re not careful. It’s a good course for someone who skis powerful with longer glides.”

Qualifier results

Senior Women

The senior women's freestyle-sprint podium at 2014 Canadian Nationals in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. (Photo: Cross Country Canada) http://www.cccski.com/Media/Haywood-Race-Report/Haywood-RACE-Report--Dasha-Gaiazova-and-Graham-Nis.aspx#.UyxDzdxH2FI
The senior women’s freestyle-sprint podium at 2014 Canadian Nationals in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, with winner Dasha Gaiazova (third from l), Perianne Jones in second (second from l), and Alysson Marshall in third (third from r). (Photo: Cross Country Canada

First off the line for the heats were the women, starting around noon. World Cup Team members Perianne Jones and Dasha Gaiazova dominated the day, winning their 1.4 k quarterfinals and semifinals. The two skiers fought it out in the A-final, with Gaiazova leading most of the sprint and ultimately taking the victory for her first win of the week.

Jones came up beside her in the finish lanes, but didn’t quite have enough for the top spot and placed second. Alysson Marshall, of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and National Development Team (NST), skied in third for most of the final and finished on the podium.

Gaiazova was unavailable for post-race comments, but this reporter was able to interview the silver medalist.

Perianne Jones (2nd)

1. How did the race play out for you from a tactical perspective? Did your race plan change very much through the heats? 

“I changed up my tactics a bit because I was slower off the start in the semi. Drafting on the downhill mid-course seemed to work pretty well in the semi so I waited for the downhill to move towards the front in my final too.”

2. Did your travels home from Europe have much of an effect on your race today? 

“I got back to Canmore about a week ago from Drammen, [Norway,] so I had some time to rest before coming out here. I don’t think the travel affected the racing too much.”

3. Some athletes like to listen to music to get them pumped up before a race. Is music part of your pre-race plan?  

“I don’t really listen to music very much in my race prep. I just go out there and ski the course and stay relaxed.”

Senior Women’s A-final

  1. Dasha Gaiazova (Canadian World Cup Team)
  2. Perianne Jones (WCT)
  3. Alysson Marshall (AWCA/NST)
  4. Erin Tribe (NDC Thunder Bay)
  5. Amanda Ammar (Team Ninja)
  6. Heidi Widmer (AWCA/NST)

Senior Men

Knute Johnsgaard (Yukon Elite Squad) leads Graham Nishikawa and Patrick Stewart-Jones in the A-final of the men's 1.6 k freestyle sprint at Canadian Nationals on Thursday in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.
Knute Johnsgaard (Yukon Elite Squad) leads Graham Nishikawa (second from r) and Patrick Stewart-Jones (in black) in the A-final of the men’s 1.6 k freestyle sprint at Canadian Nationals on Thursday in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.

After qualifying in fourth in the men’s 1.6 k prelim, Graham Nishikawa made it through to the semifinals as lucky loser out of the quarterfinal heats.

Having just returned from Sochi, Russia, where he helped guide Paralympian Brian McKeever to three gold medals, Nishikawa overcame jet lag and advanced out of the semi to the final, where he notched his first senior national title. The podium was rounded out by Knute Johnsgaard of the Yukon Elite Squad in second, and Patrick Stewart-Jones (AWCA/NST) in third, both U23 skiers.

Graham Nishikawa (1st)

1. How did the race play out for you from a tactical perspective? Did your race plan change very much through the heats?

“I really didn’t feel ready to go in the quarters, fighting jet lag, and I came in fourth in that heat. I was walking back to the car to get the keys and found out I made lucky loser.  … In the semi and the final I just went right to the front each time since there wasn’t much space to pass on the course.”

2. Did your recent trip back from Europe effect you much today? 

“I got in at 2:20 a.m. the day of the 15k [on Tuesday]. I wasn’t as worried racing right off the flight but today, two days later, I thought it’d be tough. I just went out there to have fun today and enjoy the racing.”

3. Is this your first national sprint title? How many titles do you currently have to your name? 

“I’ve got a number of junior titles but this is actually my first senior national title. I have a lot of silver and bronze medals at home.”

Senior Men’s A-final

  1. Graham Nishikawa (AWCA/NST/Para-Nordic Ski Team)
  2. Knute Johnsgaard (YES)
  3. Patrick Stewart-Jones (AWCA/NST)
  4. Raphaël Couturier (CNEPH/NST)
  5. Kevin Sandau (AWCA/NST)
  6. Andy Shields (NDC Thunder Bay)

Junior Women

Katherine Stewart-Jones (Nakkertok) pulls away from the pack in the junior women's A-final on Thursday in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. She went on to win the freestyle sprint for her third national title.
Katherine Stewart-Jones (Nakkertok) pulls away from the pack in the junior women’s A-final on Thursday in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. She went on to win the freestyle sprint for her third national title.

The junior women’s heats were quite the battle. With not much room to pass on the 1.4 k course and a particularly technical downhill at the end, many skiers ran into trouble getting tripped up or boxed in.

Jennifer Jackson, of NDC Thunder Bay and the National Junior Team (NST), won the qualifier, and Sophie Carrier-Laforte, of the Quebec Ski Team, who qualified second, moved up through the quarterfinals and both won their  semifinals.

However, Katherine Stewart-Jones (AWCA/NST) was the one who avoided trouble and pushed the pace in the A-final, taking the lead on a tricky downhill corner to cross the line with a comfortable lead ahead of second.

Katherine Stewart-Jones (1st)

1. How did the race play out for you from a tactical perspective? Did your race plan change very much through the heats?

“In the quarter and semifinals I took the lead for a lot of the race but I found people were catching me on the downhills. In the final I made my move later on, moving into the lead on the last downhill corner.”

2. At what point in the race did you know you had the win?

“I was pretty sure I had it when I moved into first on the last downhill, as long as I managed to stay on my feet.”

3. How many national titles do you now have to your name?

“I’ve won three titles, not including a couple where I came second to a Norwegian at [2012] Quebec Nationals. This is my first sprint title!”

Junior Women’s A-final

  1. Katherine Stewart-Jones (AWCA/NST)
  2. Maya Macisaac-Jones (CNEPH/NST)
  3. Dahria Beatty (AWCA/NST)
  4. Anne-Marie Comeau (CNEPH/NST)
  5. Jennifer Jackson (NDC Thunder Bay/NST)
  6. Sophie Carrier-Laforte (QCST)

Junior Men

Colin Foley (front) duels Evan to the finish. Charrette won for his first title of the week at Canadian Nationals in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.
Colin Foley (r) duels Evan Palmer-Charrette to the finish of Thursday’s skate sprint. Palmer-Charrette won the A-final for his first title of the week at Canadian Nationals in Corner Brook, Newfoundland.

NDC Thunder Bay continued its dominance of the junior men’s category. Instead of Scott Hill, who’s already won two individual races this week, taking gold in the sprint, Evan Palmer-Charrette — the 15 k skate runner-up — notched another gold for Thunder Bay in the 1.6 k sprint. Colin Foley of the Callaghan Valley Training Centre took second, after winning both his quarter and semifinals, and Hill placed third.

Since we spoke to Palmer-Charrette after Tuesday’s race and Hill on Sunday, here are some comments from Thursday’s runner-up Colin Foley.

Colin Foley (2nd)

1. How did the race play out for you from a tactical perspective? Did your race plan change very much through the heats?

“In the quarterfinal I wanted to conserve my energy so I didn’t lead any of it except for the final stretch. In the semi’s I wanted to make it to the final without risking anything and I was feeling good so I lead off the start and took it fast all the way around. The final I really just tried to make sure I was in the top three coming to the steep climb about halfway through the course. After that it was just about giving everything I had left.”

2. Is this your first national sprint podium? How many podiums do you currently have to your name?

“Before this nationals I only had one podium, it came last year with a silver in the 10 k skate. So yes this is my first podium in the sprint. In the past my distance skiing has been much better so I’m very happy to get on a sprint podium.”

3. Do you have a favourite song to get you in the mood on race day?

“I don’t like to listen to music very close to my race, but I’ll often listen to it if I have a long time until I start. In that case it would definitely consist of some of The Black Keys.”

Junior Men’s A-final

  1. Evan Palmer-Charrette (NDC Thunder Bay/NST)
  2. Colin Foley (CVTC)
  3. Scott Hill (NDC Thunder Bay/NST)
  4. Nicholas Pigeon (Skinouk)
  5. Gavin Shields (Lappe)
  6. Angus Foster (Big Thunder)

 Complete results

Junior men's freestyle-sprint podium at 2014 Canadian Nationals in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. (Photo: Cross Country Canada)
Junior men’s freestyle-sprint podium at 2014 Canadian Nationals in Corner Brook, Newfoundland. (Photo: Cross Country Canada)

***

About the Author: A Canadian cross-country ski racer with the Alberta World Cup Academy, Zeke spends most of his time in Canmore, Alberta, but calls Cantley, Quebec, his home. He thinks that you can learn a lot about a person from their goals — his is to ski really fast on the Winter Olympic race course in 2018. Unfortunately he is not competing at 2014 Canadian Nationals on account of an injury. Check out his blog: zekewilliams1.blogspot.ca.

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Alex Kochon

Alex Kochon (alex@fasterskier.com) is the former managing editor at FasterSkier. She spent seven years with FS from 2011-2018, and has been writing, editing, and skiing ever since. She's making a cameo in 2020.

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