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Nishikawa, Killick on the Podium: Planica OPA Cup Notes and Quotes

Canada’s Emily Nishikawa (National Development Team) racing to 30th in the women's 10 k freestyle at 2015 World Championships for her best result in Falun, Sweden. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

Canada’s Emily Nishikawa (National Development Team) racing to 30th in the women’s 10 k freestyle at 2015 World Championships for her best result in Falun, Sweden. (Photo: Fischer/NordicFocus)

By Gerry Furseth

Emily Nishikawa collected the first two OPA Cup podiums of her career last weekend, Jan. 9-10, to lead the Canadians at the Planica OPA Cup in Slovenia. World Cup skiers Nishikawa, Graeme Killick, Jess Cockney and Lenny Valjas joined up with Canada’s B-Tour group at the European equivalent of a NorAm event. The three-race weekend was a major focus of the U25 B-Tour.

Nishikawa, who was fourth in Friday’s sprint, took bronze in both Saturday’s 10-kilometre classic and Sunday’s 10 k freestyle.

I was happy with my race today,” Nishikawa, of Canada’s senior national development team, wrote after Saturday’s race. “It wasn’t my very best performance, but I fought hard.”

“Overall I think the weekend went really well,” she added on Sunday. “I’m looking forward to racing there again next weekend in the World Cup.”

Killick, also on the NST development team, joined Nishikawa on the podium Saturday, taking third place in the men’s 14 k classic before finishing fifth in Sunday’s 14 km freestyle.

I felt like my form is coming back after the sickness,” Killick wrote. “I haven’t raced in a while so it was good to get one going today.”

Despite the less-than-ideal weather, Killick was happy with the day.  “Our team did a great job with the skis today, I was able to ski smooth through the whole course.”

The OPA Cup, also known as the Alpen Cup, offers a unique Continental Cup (COC) racing experience outside North America.  The 28 senior women in Sunday’s race represented 12 countries.  At least 10 World Cup regulars of each gender raced.  Combining all age groups, 165 men and 79 women raced.  In comparison, next week’s NorAm in Thunder Bay has 250 athletes registered, but will likely have about three countries represented and only one athlete who has raced a World Cup this season.

Heidi Widmer, racing for Switzerland this season after starting her career in Canada, described the differences in an email.  “The coaches and athletes drift between COC and World Cup much more frequently because it makes sense logistically. It provides much more frequent and higher caliber racing and racing in more competitive fields fuels more competition and improvement.”

More quotes from the weekend after the results summary.

Complete results: Saturday | Sunday

Women’s 10 k classic
1 Victoria Carl, GER, 30:04.9
2 Julia Belger, GER, +6.6 seconds
3 Emily Nishikawa, CAN, +30.9
17 Dahria Beatty, CAN, +2:21.8
19 Maya Macisaac-Jones, CAN, +2:58.7
24 Cendrine Browne, CAN, +3:23.2
28 Katherine Stewart-Jones, CAN, +4:02.3

Men’s 14 k classic
1 Alexis Jeannarod, FRA, 35:52.1
2 Richard Jouve, FRA, +2.1 seconds
3 Graeme Killick, CAN, +6.9
24 Knute Johnsgaard, CAN, +1:36.4
35 Jess Cockney, CAN, +1:54.8
71 Andy Shields, CAN, +3:59.1

Women’s 10 k freestyle
1 Giulia Sturz, ITA, 25:27.2
2 Caterina Ganz, ITA, +25.2
3 Emily Nishikawa, CAN, +26.3
9 Cendrine Browne, CAN, +58.0
16 Dahria Beatty, CAN, +1:29.2
22 Katherine Stewart-Jones, CAN, +2:00.5
25 Maya Macisaac-Jones, CAN, +2:47.0

Men’s 14 k freestyle
1 Clement Parisse, FRA, 31:20.9
2 Valentin Chauvin, FRA, +9.5 seconds
3 Paolo Fanton, ITA, +28.0
5 Graeme Killick, CAN, +50.8
25 Knute Johnsgaard, CAN, +1:37.4
55 Andy Shields, CAN, +2:42.8

 

On the Planica courses, snow and weather:

“It was raining during our race, but the course held up really well especially given the number of racers on such a short course (2km loops).

“[On the sprint course,] there is a fast downhill with a corner right off the start.”

– Nishikawa, who placed fourth, third and third again

“It’s a brand new [sprint] course in Planica, it’s very tough but fair.”

– Lenny Valjas, Canadian World Cup Team member

“The course held up extremely well today, I was very impressed! I had good kick the entire way through and in exchange sacrificed some glide.

“I am really looking forward to the 10k skate tomorrow on the same course. It is a very hard course and with the success I’ve had in skate races in Canada this season, I am really looking forward to seeing what sort of performance I can put forward here.”

– Dahria Beatty (U23 Development Team)

“The conditions changed during our race because it was raining so … my wax wasn’t working too well.”

– Cendrine Browne (U23 Development Team)

“I think the snow changed a lot from when I tested to the race. The first lap I was able to stride most of it but after that I had a lot of trouble and ended up slipping a lot.

“The course is also a lot of fun. There are a lot of fun twisty downhills and the uphills are great for striding!”

– Katherine Stewart-Jones (U23 Development Team)

“We raced on a <2km loop today so I was able to get a sweet ride off a French guy for the first two laps. It felt really easy to follow him but as soon as I got to the top of one of the hills I was suddenly totally fried.

“We had rain last night and it’s raining now so it’s interesting. We had really good skis, the techs did a superb job with the klister.”

– Andy Shields (Thunder Bay NDC)

“The short 2k loop meant that a lot of terrain was compacted into a little course. A great course nonetheless and really happy with my skis today.”

– Widmer

“I was really looking forward to the skiathlon race this weekend but because of lack of snow it was switched to an individual skate.”

– Knute Johnsgaard (U23+ Development Team)

On racing in Europe:

“Racing here in Europe is way harder than in Canada and I just have to get used to it. I was surprised by how the girls were going so fast in my quarter final.

“Two minute sprints are not my strength…. I guess I’m also not used to them because in Canada they are much longer.”

– Browne

“It was a great learning experience. Today I got to ski with Emily for a bit. It was fun to try and hold on and to experience the difference in speed.

“The biggest difference is that in a NorAm there are rarely ever 30 women entered in a race so you always have a chance at the heats whether you have a good qualifier or not.

“The highlight of the trip has been being able to watch the Tour De Ski live on TV.”

– Stewart-Jones on enjoying the differences, like Eurosport being part of the cable package at every hotel

“Only missing the semis by 0.5 seconds and sitting in the lucky loser position for a while gave me the confidence that I can fight for those top spots here if I have a really good day.”

– Beatty

“I am having a lot of fun, learning until my brain hurts everyday but missing my family a lot at low points too.”

– Widmer, who moved in Switzerland to join her new team

“Going into the race I knew it was a tough field for an OPA.”

– Shields, on the names on the start list

On the races:

“My race today was definitely not my strongest performance. It was a five lap race. Lap one felt good but I got a bad cramp when I started climbing on the second lap and I was able to refocus well after that. I struggled a lot on the 3 middle laps fading on the top section of each lap but was able to refocus better on the final lap. Overall it was felt like a sub par performance but there were lots of good learning points and I am very happy to have the opportunity to be racing in such a competitive field.

“Even though the result was 1 better today I was happier with how I skied yesterday.

“I fell on the first lap and got tangled with another skier on the second lap and fell again in the same place. Then part way through the race my back seized. I was lucky to have Cendrine to ski with for the last two laps to motivate me to keep moving. It was great to see Emily and Cendrine both have good races.”

– Beatty on the distance races

“I felt good but unfortunately, I didn’t have enough kick. I don’t think I chose the right pair of skis for today’s conditions.

I am so happy about today’s race. I raced really well technically and was feeling very powerful and full of energy. Being at 25 seconds off the podium really shows me that I am in good shape and that everything is possible.”

– Browne, happier on Sunday after two tough days

“I felt a lot better than yesterday. I was able to ski efficiently and keep my technique together. It was a good hard effort and definitely a step in the right direction.”

“Unfortunately you can’t always be at your best. I’m staying positive and hoping the shape will come together.”

– Stewart-Jones, also happiest on Sunday

“[The] prologue was brutal. My legs were super blown and I was not able to break through the feeling. Really disappointed and will readjust and go forward to improve for the World Cup next week!

“My race was pretty good for the first couple laps then nothing left to offer.”

– Widmer on the sprint and the skate respectively

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