Olympic dreams closer to reality for MacIsaac-Jones
Thursday, Dec 07, 2017 06:00 am
Growing up on a farm at the end of a dirt road in Athabasca, Alta., Maya MacIsaac-Jones often relied upon her imagination for entertainment.
Along with her younger siblings Michael and Anna, she would pretend to be Beckie Scott or Sara Renner, racing around the family ski trails, chasing Olympic gold.
“My dad would pretend to call our races; ‘And here’s Beckie Scott, charging hard to the line,’” MacIsaac-Jones said.
MacIsaac-Jones is now chasing her own Olympic start in PyeongChang and got off to a good start with a gold medal in the Alberta Cup #2 10-kilometre classic race Sunday (Dec. 2) at the Canmore Nordic Centre. MacIsaac-Jones edged Canmore’s Annika Hicks by two seconds to take the win, clocking a time of 29:44.1.
“Olympic trials is a classic distance race, so this is certainly a confidence booster. It was really a fun race to be so close to Annika,” MacIsaac-Jones said. “Sometimes I struggle with distance racing; just to get into the right mental aspect. It’s tough to commit to pushing that hard.”
As the races become much more serious, MacIsaac-Jones said the mental game is becoming much more important for her. Breaking down the race into small challenges worked.
“I’m doing sports psychology work to stay in the moment and not get too nervous. Today was just about focusing on the little things. In the past I would go out on the first lap and think about how much farther I have to go. This time, I was thinking about little things I can do to be a bit faster,” MacIsaac-Jones said.
Her brother and sister also raced, as did a large contingent from Athabasca, giving the 22-year-old plenty of inspiration.
“We had good representation from my home town. They have great ski trails there. I love skiing and I hope to spread that love in the community,” MacIsaac-Jones said.
Hicks was thrilled be on the podium after missing Saturday’s skate race due to illness. Competition will be fierce for a final women’s Olympics spot, and she knows she will need to compete with MacIsaac-Jones, Zina Lawson (Kocher) and others for the spot.
“I executed my race plan pretty well. I wouldn’t say it was perfect, but that’s why we do Alberta Cups,” Hicks said. “I wanted to focus on technique on the third and fourth lap, so when I am tired, I keep it together. I used the corners to accelerate out of – it’s a twisty course, so those sections are important.”
The podium is a good confidence boost for the 26-year-old, who has channeled her inner artist to calm the race nerves.
“There is a pottery class I’ve been getting into. It’s a nice break from thinking about skiing. I’m making mugs, vases, pots – it was a birthday present from my mom,” Hicks said.
Lawson appeared to have the third fastest time, but missed her start time by about six minutes. It’s the first race start the 35-year-old has missed since she was a junior. Sara McLean of Rocky Mountain Racers ended up with the third fastest time in the category, and was the top-ranked junior woman.
Andrew Romanov of Russia won the men’s 15 km race with a time of 30:23. Romanov is a ParaNordic guide in town for the 2017 World ParaNordic World Cup races in Canmore, Dec. 8-18.
Brian McKeever finished second, eleven seconds off the pace. Nursing an inflamed disc in his back, McKeever elected to double pole the entire course. The Paralympic star will race in Silverstar, and will skip the 2017 World Para-Nordic Skiing World Cup in Canmore as he continues to chase an Olympic start spot.
Julian Smith finished third.