It had been almost two months since Emily Nishikawa raced on the World Cup, yet the 25-year-old Canadian National Development Team skier picked up essentially where she left off, collecting her second-best result of the season on Sunday in the women’s 10-kilometer freestyle in Östersund, Sweden.
“It was great to get racing on the World Cup again today,” Nishikawa wrote in an email after placing 36th in Sunday’s race. “My goals for today were just to put a good race together, and focus on the process goals. I think I did that really well. I paced it fairly well, although maybe started a bit too conservatively.”
At 1.8 k, Nishikawa’s time ranked 55th of 70 finishers. She sped up to 39th by 6.8 k and 36th by 8.3 k before finishing 2:35.9 behind Swedish winner Charlotte Kalla.
“A Finnish skier caught me at 5km and I held on to her for the rest of the race,” Nishikawa explained. “I made up a lot of time in the 2nd lap, but I think I could have pushed a little harder in the last few km!”
Last Friday, she arrived in Falun, Sweden, where she’ll compete in her second World Championships over the coming weeks. Nishikawa explained she spent about five days there before traveling to Östersund last Tuesday.
“My teammates that raced yesterday are en route to Falun right now, and the rest of us that raced today will drive down tomorrow,” she wrote. “I had a really good ‘training camp’ at home in Canada in January. I got lots of racing in, but also got lots of time at home with good quality training.”
In Canada, Nishikawa won three-straight NorAm distance races between Eastern and Western Canadian Championships. In fact, she won every NorAm distance race while she was home for a total of six victories from early January to early February.
On Sunday, she was the lone Canadian female to race the 10 k, while Ivan Babikov (Canadian World Cup Team) and her fellow Alberta World Cup Academy and national-development team member Michael Somppi competed in the men’s 15 k.
Babikov finished 49th, 2:11.3 behind Norwegian winner Finn Hågen Krogh, while Somppi placed 69th (+3:18.4) out of 90.
Like Nishikawa, Somppi arrived in Falun for a few days of training before driving to Östersund.
“It was good to have the opportunity to race the World Cup in Ostersund this weekend,” Somppi, the men’s NorAm leader, wrote in an email. “Training went well in the lead up to this weekend; feelings have been pretty good.”
He had been shooting for a top 30, which he knew would be difficult given “the size and quality of the field,” but he wanted to “just throw down everything I had and see where I stacked up,” Somppi wrote.
“Unfortunately my nerves got to me a little, making my body a little stiff, in particular my quads, right from the start,” he explained. “It’s not the first time nerves have affected me and I was hoping I would be able to work through it and loosen up as I got into the race but that never really materialized. With the stiffness in my body I wasn’t able to attack the course the way I wanted and ended up skiing the whole race comfortably hard. I wasn’t able to put myself into the hurt locker and you need to be able to do that if you want to a good result on the World Cup.”
Although listed as a scratch for Saturday’s sprint, Somppi explained he had planned all along to just race the distance race.
“The team put me on the start list just in case, but it was always the plan for me to focus on Sunday,” he wrote. “The transition from the NorAm to pre-World Champs World Cup is huge. I wasn’t ready for the speed these guys ski at today. I needed to be way more aggressive. It was a good wake up call for me.”
While Somppi did not make Canada’s selective nine-person World Championships team, he will be racing Scandinavian Cups on the Canadian B-Tour next weekend.
“I will definitely be focusing on bringing aggression and fight to my racing there,” he wrote.
Alex Kochon (firstname.lastname@example.org) 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.