The Yukon Cross Country Team celebrates talent at the national level


Cross Country Yukon, the territory's governing body for cross-country skiing, celebrated the achievements of three Yukon skiers at an event held Tuesday, 14, 2024, at the Whitehorse Nordic Center.

Derek Deuling, Sonja Schmidt and Sasha Masson finished the competition season with podium finishes, earning them nominations for the national ski team and the opportunity to compete in the World Cup for the 2024-25 competition season.

Deuling and Schmidt won gold medals at the U23 Cross Country World Championships in Planica Valley, Slovenia on February 11th and 6th, 2024. Most notably, Schmidt made Canadian skiing history by becoming the first woman to achieve gold for the U23 title.

Masson finished the 2023-24 season with two bronze medals and finished in the top 10 in more than half a dozen events. His steady string of outstanding performances quickly increased his ranking on the International Ski and Snowboard Federation's FIS points list.

Additionally, Cross Country Yukon celebrated the re-nomination of Constance Lapointe to the national development team and the nomination of Minty Bradford to train the national junior team.

Skiers of varying levels of development were present at the event to cheer and celebrate the achievements of Deuling, Schmidt and Masson.

Cross Country Yukon head coach and sports coordinator Graham Nishikawa told the News that the Yukon offers a perfect environment for athletes looking to develop a professional career on the world stage:

“There is a great ski community here, there are lots of passionate parents, volunteers, officials and the board. I think that’s what drives the development of skiers.”

Nishikawa commented on the governing body's strategy of working with athletes to compete according to the stage of their sporting careers.

“Across our system we have tried to ensure that athletes at every level of development end up in the right competition. We did a great job getting the athletes to the Western Championships, the Artic Winter Games, the National Championships and the Junior Trials, and Sasha, Darren and Sonja made it to the World Cup.”

Cross Country Yukon's various programs, aimed at skiers of varying abilities, have had a strong influence in shaping the area's ski community. The youth squad program in particular has had a profound impact on supporting young people on the path to becoming professional athletes, said Nishikawa.

Nishikawa commented on Masson's long-term training history, moving between different stages of development and finding his competitiveness leading up to the FIS Cross-Country World Cup.

The youth program consists of six different squads ranging in age from six to over 15 years old and is led by a group of volunteer coaches.

Deuling, Schmidt and Masson are currently preparing for the 2024-25 competition season by training at locations across the country in hopes of taking home gold for the 2024-25 FIS Cross Country World Cup.

Contact Jake Howarth at [email protected]