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Two veteran squads captured the first titles of the weeklong Canadian Ski Nationals on Saturday in Whitehorse, Yukon.
Canmore residents skiing out of Foothills Nordic Ski Club, Jesse Cockney and three-time Olympian Ivan Babikov won the men’s classic-ski team sprint. Hometown girls representing Whitehorse, Emily Nishikawa and Kendra Murray, stormed to the top of the women’s podium.
The team sprint races consist of each athlete skiing a 1.4-kilometre loop three times. Athletes tag their teammate between each leg.
Cockney and Babikov, who both posted top-10 finishes in the recent Ski Tour Canada, continued their hot streak to end the season. The Olympians got off to a slow start in the final round, but stormed back to take the gold medal in 18:08.44 minutes.
“It is awesome to win a gold for Foothills Nordic,” said Cockney. “It didn’t look good at the start. We started with grip wax and then switched to double poling. It was all Babs today. He set me up to make it happen.”
“I just wanted to keep fighting to the end,” said Babikov, who posted back-to-back top-10’s and a 14th place finish to end the Ski Tour Canada. “I kept Jesse in the fighting position, and he came through in the end.”
Just 0.7 seconds back, Yannick Lapierre and Patrick Stewart-Jones from Nakkertok claimed silver, while Lappe Nordic athletes from Thunder Bay, Ont., Andy Shields and Evan Palmer-Charrette skied to the bronze (+0.85).
Meanwhile, two hometown girls from Whitehorse – Nishikawa and Murray – teamed up to claim top spot in the women’s team sprint with a dominating win in 21:44.31.
“It was a super fun race and so awesome to race in front of a home crowd with Emily,” said Murray. “I came into today with the focus of using this as a good race prep for tomorrow. There were tons of people cheering, and it was so nice to have the locals celebrating with us at the finish.”
Nakkertok skiers Alex Slobodian and Claire Grall-Johnson finished second (+1:08.4), while Team Hardwood athletes, Madison Fraser and Isabella Howden, rounded out the women’s podium in third place (+1:19.16).