CORNER BROOK, Newfoundland — The last day of Canadian Nationals started bright and early last Saturday with the senior men’s competition at 9 a.m. The men raced 50 kilometers, women and junior men 30 k and junior women 20 k, all classic mass starts.
With skiers already having completed three other individual races this week, some doing four with the team relay, the distance race is not only a good indicator of endurance and race fitness, but also a test of who has recovered the best throughout the week.
Newfoundland came through with some pretty exciting weather for the final race. Blowing snow was the name of the game for most of the morning at Blow Me Down Trails and made for interesting conditions for the competitors.
Fighting through the snow, the senior men stayed in a pretty big pack for the first two-thirds of the race until Ivan Babikov, of the Canadian World Cup Team, pulled ahead to win the 50 k by 41.5 seconds in 2:19:32.3.
Runner-up Kevin Sandau of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and Canadian Senior Development Team (NST) talked about the race and about his experience at nationals this year.
Kevin Sandau (2nd)
– What was your race plan going into the 50 k? Stick with the pack? Push the pace and string things out?
“I didn’t want to have a relaxed and passive pace for much of the 50 k. Sometimes 50’s just aren’t hard enough until the last 10 t0 15 k, so they end bunching up quite a bit, and it can get frustrating and sketchy skiing with a big pack like that. I took my turns in the front, kept the pace high. When Ivan attacked on the second last lap a group of three of us tried to pull him back, but well he sort of crushed it that lap and put some big time into us.”
– Looks like you had a pretty good week of racing. How do you feel about your performance this year at nationals?
“Best nationals for me by far. I was actually most nervous about the team sprint and defending Foothills Nordic’s gold-medal streak in that race. Also it was the first time I did the sprint race since maybe 2009 at nationals and I managed to sneak into the A-final, so I was pretty excited about that.”
– How many nationals podiums do your currently have to your name? How many titles?
“Seven podiums including two team-sprints titles. The [individual] national-champ title still eludes me, but I did grab this years overall title so pretty pumped for that.”
– I hear you are racing at the Alberta Cup Sharkfest. Safe to say this was your main focus for the season?
“Pretty much the biggest focus. You’re only as good as your last race, right? And I figure it will be some good motivation to ski on the weekend.”
- Ivan Babikov (Canadian World Cup Team) 2:19:32.3
- Kevin Sandau (AWCA/NST) +41.5
- Graham Nishikawa (NST/Para-Nordic Team) +52.7
- Andy Shields (NDC Thunder Bay/NST) +54.4
- Graeme Killick (AWCA-NST) +1:29.4
- Knute Johnsgaard (Yukon Elite) +1:52.4
- Colin Abbott (Yukon Elite) +1:54
- Frédéric Touchette (Laval) +2:15.6
- Michael Somppi (AWCA/NST) +4:09.5
- Colin Ferrie (Black Jack) +4:12.5
The senior women’s race played out quite differently. Amanda Ammar (Team Ninja) broke the pack early on, with only Emily Nishikawa (AWCA/NST) being able to match her.
These two skiers worked together, opening up a big gap over third-place skier Chisa Obayashi (Madshus Japan), until Ammar pulled ahead in the last lap to take the win with by 54 seconds over Nishikawa.
Amanda Ammar (1st)
– You really broke the field pretty early on. Was that your game plan before or did you decide during the race that you felt great and you’d just go for it?
“Winning the nationals 30 k was a goal of mine all year, but obviously not the most important. Olympics was first. Breaking the field was always in the back of my head, but you can only make that decision really on the day of … you need to gauge your energy and that day I felt awesome in my warmup, so it was an easy game plan. As a distance skier, I absolutely hate tactics, and would love to have the luxury of always just blasting off the start.”
– You’ve put down some really solid races at these nationals. Do you think that your experience at the Olympics put you in a good place for nationals or do you think that you went into these races pretty fatigued?
“The Olympics was physically and mentally exhausting. Leading up to the Olympics was stressful for me with the appeals, Brittany [Webster] and I had a horrible travel schedule, and then while traveling to Sochi the airline company broke most of my skis. So I wasn’t in the best headspace. That being said, the Olympic course was one of the most challenging that I have ever raced on. After completing all of my events, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and confidence. I knew if I could start and finish a race on that grueling of a course, then it would be an absolute piece of cake on any other course.
“When I got home from the Olympics I was pretty toast. I had no desire to go to nationals, but I knew that once I got there that my frame of mind would change, and that I would have fun no matter what. So did I have energy going into nationals? No, but does anybody, really? It’s a long season, especially an Olympic season. We are all tired, and I feel that every athlete is in the same boat.”
– Any thoughts about your nationals races this year? The 30 k was your first national title, correct?
“I couldn’t be more excited about my results at nationals this year. A Ninja winning the nationals aggregate? So stoked! This is the first time I have ever medalled as a senior, and I managed to get top 5 in every race! In 2012, I was nine minutes and 30 seconds behind in the 30 k classic event, so that is just one example of how far I’ve come in three years. These results mean so much to me in that I’ve always wanted to be a positive role model for the young women coming up in sport.
“These last three years I’ve done it my way, no carding, no national/development team, no rules! Chris [Butler] and I made the training plan, and worked together with other athletes in the bow valley. We kept it sublimely simple.”
- Amanda Ammar (Team Ninja) 1:32:23
- Emily Nishikawa (AWCA/NST) +54.5
- Chisa Obayashi (Madshus Japan) +4:51.6
- Brittany Webster (MitoCanada) +5:36.1
- Alysson Marshall (AWCA/NST) +5:39.9
- Erin Tribe (NDC Thunder Bay/Lakehead) +5:43.3
- *Anne-Marie Comeau (CNEPH/NST) +5:56.2
- Heidi Widmer (AWCA/NST) +7:56
- Kendra Murray (Carleton) +7:56.4
- Marlis Kromm (AWCA) +12:37.7
In the junior men’s 30 k, NDC Thunder Bay ruled the roost once again, sweeping the podium. Pulling off his third national title this season, Scott Hill raced to a nearly two-minute win over the rest of the field. His NDC teammates also on the National Junior Team, Evan Palmer-Charrette and Ben Wilkinson-Zan followed in second and third, respectively.
- Scott Hill (NDC Thunder Bay/NST) 1:23:10.7
- Evan Palmer-Charrette (NDC Thunder Bay/NST) +1:51
- Benjamin Wilkinson-Zan (NDC Thunder Bay/NST) +2:29.1
- Alexis Dumas (QCST) +3:12.0
- Colin Foley (CVTC) +3:32.8
- Julien Lamoureux (QCST/Cégep Édouard-Montpetit) +4:32.6
- Conor Thompson (QCST/Cégep Édouard-Montpetit) +5:04.9
- Nicholas Pigeon (Skinouk) +5:05.4
- Gavin Shields (Lappe) +5:45.2
- David Askwith (Georgian Bay) +7:32.2
Much like in the senior women’s race, the junior women spread out early on. This made for a mentally challenging race as most of the competitors pushed through the pain alone for much of the 20 k distance.
Upsetting this trend, the top three, Dahria Beatty (AWCA/NST), Katherine Stewart-Jones (Nakkertok/NST) and Annah Hanthorn of the Yukon Territory Ski Team, worked together for much of the race setting up a comfortable lead on the others. On the third of four laps, Beatty and Stewart-Jones slowly pulled away from Hanthorn and the last lap became a two-skier battle. Beatty pulled away on the hills of the final lap to take her second national title of the week by 16.5 seconds.
- Dahria Beatty (AWCA/NST) 1:08:12
- Katherine Stewart-Jones (Nakkertok/NST) +16.5
- Annah Hanthorn (YTST) +46.3
- Frédérique Vézina (CNEPH/NST) +2:45.2
- Sophie Carrier-Laforte (QCST) +3:03.7
- Jennifer Jackson (NDC Thunder Bay/NST) +3:12.6
- Emilie Stewart-Jones (Nakkertok) +3:18.9
- Sarah Beaudry (Caledonia) +4:00.9
- Maya Macisaac-Jones (CNEPH/NST) +6:02.4
- Ember Large (Edmonton) +6:47.5
Complete results: Zone4.ca
For aggregate national titles from the week: 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.