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Beatty, Harvey Golden Again with Skate Sprint Wins in Whitehorse

Alex Harvey (r) after edging Lenny Valjas and Julien Locke for the men's freestyle sprint title on Wednesday at Canadian Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon. Valjas placed second and Locke was third. (Photo: CCC/Twitter)

Alex Harvey (r) after edging Lenny Valjas and Julien Locke for the men’s freestyle sprint title on Wednesday at Canadian Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon. Valjas placed second and Locke was third. (Photo: CCC/Twitter)

(Press release)

WHITEHORSE, Yukon — Dahria Beatty and Alex Harvey are on a golden run in Canada’s north. Beatty captured her second straight victory, while Harvey completed the golden hat trick on Wednesday in the 1.2-kilometre freestyle sprints at Canadian Ski Nationals in Whitehorse.

Mentally and physically exhausted following a long competitive season that culminated with the punishing eight-race Ski Tour Canada (STC), the 22-year-old Beatty has somehow discovered another gear to win back-to-back gold medals at the national cross-country skiing championships. She took down the nation’s best women on Wednesday on the two-lap sprint course she grew up on in her hometown.

“I felt so tired in the qualifier this morning and struggled to put everything forward, but I just kept getting better as the day went on,” said Beatty, who posted her first victory in Tuesday’s 10 k freestyle race, and also had a silver medal on the weekend. “I’m thrilled to have another victory at home. There were so many school kids out today cheering us on, and the support has been great here in Whitehorse.”

Beatty, part of the Alberta World Cup Academy (AWCA) and national U23 development teams, lined up against six of Canada’s top female sprinters in the head-to-head women’s final for two laps around the 600-metre course which features one large climb, tight corners and a downhill into the stadium that leads to the uphill finish.

A notoriously slow starter in skate sprints, Beatty was third in the opening lap behind Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt (National Senior Development Team) and Maya MacIsaac-Jones (Rocky Mountain Racers). The pack of six stuck together on the first climb, but it was the second climb where Beatty and Bouffard-Nesbitt made an attack on the group. Beatty jumped ahead in the final downhill and never looked back, skate sprinting to the finish line.

Bouffard-Nesbitt claimed the silver, while MacIsaac-Jones, who had a top-30 finish of her own at the STC, was third.

With the next generation of Canada’s elite cross-country skiers on full display on home snow over the last three weeks, Beatty and others are starting to make a claim they are ready to make the giant leap to the next level of racing. One of a group of young women cranking out personal-best performances at the STC, Beatty shocked the world to qualify for the World Cup classic sprint heats in Canmore, Alberta, where she went on to finish a career-best 15th.

“I think the whole Tour was amazing and definitely a good confidence booster for me,” said an exhausted Beatty. “It showed me that if I put my mind to finding that extra gear inside me, and putting it all out there, that I can produce good results.

Emily [Nishikawa] is a very strong skier, but I think we have a group of girls now ready to join her at the World Cup level. At least we are certainly ready to try. I think it is time we have a real women’s team over in Europe which is definitely going to make us stronger together if we continue to push each other.”

Nishikawa, a 2014 Olympian who also hails from Whitehorse, captured the first two victories of the week at the premiere domestic racing festival. A distance racer by trade, Nishikawa was the lone woman representing Canada full time on the World Cup this year. At home in Wednesday’s sprint, she placed 13th.

Marie Corriveau (CNEPH/National Junior Team) leading her junior women's qualifier on Wednesday at 2016 Canadian Ski Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon. She went on to win the junior women's final. (Photo: CCC/Twitter)

Marie Corriveau (CNEPH/National Junior Team) leading her junior women’s qualifier on Wednesday at 2016 Canadian Ski Nationals in Whitehorse, Yukon. She went on to win the junior women’s final. (Photo: CCC/Twitter)

It was a clash of the Canadian titans in the men’s sprint final with many of the top names in the sport rumbling on the skinny skis in the head-to-head heats around the 1.2-kilometre track.

Toronto’s Lenny Valjas was determined to end Harvey’s golden run in Whitehorse. The World Cup teammate met in the final, but in the end, it was Harvey, of Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., rattling off his third consecutive victory in as many races, winning by 0.19 seconds over Valjas.

“I knew Alex wanted to have good races every day, and was a bit nervous for the sprint, so that gave me motivation to put up the best day I could. I did everything I could to give Alex a run for his money today,” said Valjas. “I just put the pedal down the whole way around and was hoping to get some separation from him. I attacked that first hill, but he did get by me on the last hill. It gave him the lead and I couldn’t get by him again.”

It was Valjas’ second silver medal of the week behind the leader of the men’s national squad. He also finished second behind Harvey in the 15 k classic interval start.

“This has been a very serious week for us and everyone is skiing at a very high level. We are all teammates, but when the gun goes off we are all there fighting hard for the top of the podium,” added Valjas. “Whitehorse, in my opinion, is one of the best places in the country to have Nationals. When the weather is good it is hard to find a better place in Canada, and the volunteers have just put on an amazing event for us.”

Julien Locke, of Nelson, B.C., skied to the bronze medal in men’s sprint action.

Marie Corriveau, of Saint-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., won the junior women’s sprint. Joey Foster, of Midland, Ont., was the top junior men’s sprinter on the day.

The junior and juvenile boys and girls will hit the start line for their sprint races Thursday. The final elite races are set for Saturday with the 30/50 k classic mass starts.

Complete results | Women | Men

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