CANMORE, Alta. — Emily Nishikawa and Graeme Killick won the cross-country ski marathon at the Ski Nationals as the 2017 season came to a close on Saturday.
The Olympic veterans proved they were the top women's and men's cross-country skiers in the field after grinding through the challenging 30- and 50-kilometre skate-ski races.
Nishikawa captured her third gold medal of the week for the second straight year after winning the women's long distance race. The 2014 Olympian served notice she'll be the top Canadian on the women's squad heading into next season after leading the country in four loops around the 7.5-kilometre track. Nishikawa clocked-in at one hour 21 minutes 50.2 seconds.
"I had three good races this week. It was a tough end to the season, but nice to finish on a positive note here. It is incredible to win all three," said Nishikawa, who has had a heavy race load over the last two weeks after coming off the World Cup Finals.
"The 30 kilometre is the hardest race all week. It is so tough. It is such a sense of accomplishment just to cross the line let alone to win, so it feels amazing."
Nishikawa controlled the pace with three-time Olympic biathlete, Zina Kocher of Red Deer, Alta., up and down the punishing hills at the world renowned Canmore Nordic Centre until the final three kilometres, where the young gun put the throttle down.
Nishikawa opened a 47 second lead on Kocher, who took home the silver medal at 1:22:37.52. Quebec's Frederique Vezina took the bronze medal at 1:24:19.83.
Meanwhile, Killick, from Fort McMurray, Alta., won the first men's 50-kilometre skate-ski distance race of his career at the National Championships.
The 28-year-old Killick persevered in a battle to the finish line over the seven-lap course. Killick edged out Andy Shields in a sprint finish with a time of 1:56:40.21.
Shields, from Waterloo, Ont., who now trains in Thunder Bay, Ont., finished a fraction of a second behind in second place at 1:56:40.43. Michael Somppi of Thunder Bay, also put in a strong effort for the bronze medal with a time of 1:56:46.49.
The Canadian Press