CANMORE – Of Canada’s exclusive list of cross-country skiers off to Beijing next month, there’s one name noticeably absent.
With limited spots up for grabs on the women’s Olympic team at last week’s Olympic Trials at the Canmore Nordic Centre, the competition was fierce and pressure was on national ski team (NST) athletes such as Cendrine Browne, Dahria Beatty, and Maya MacIsaac-Jones to deliver in the clutch.
In these types of nerve-inducing, high-stakes scenarios, MacIsaac-Jones, a four-time NST athlete, has been good and bad.
“Unfortunately, these were the bad ones,” said MacIsaac-Jones, 26.
After disappointing results, the countdown ticker has reset to four years on MacIsaac-Jones’ childhood dream of competing at the Winter Olympics Games.
“At the moment, [I’m] just taking time to absorb the last few weeks and deal with all the emotions that come after Olympic trials especially after I was unsuccessful,” said MacIsaac-Jones from Athabasca, Alta., but lives and trains in Canmore.
“Hopefully over the next few weeks as I work through some debriefing with my coaches the reasons why I wasn’t able to perform will become more clear and I’ll be able to learn some lessons from that.”
Headed to Beijing are Laura Leclair, Cendrine Browne, Katherine Stewart-Jones and Dahria Beatty for women and Antoine Cyr, Graham Ritchie and Olivier Leveille for men. Four alternate athletes are joining the team in Beijing: Russell Kennedy, Remi Drolet, Olivia Bouffard-Nesbitt and Jasmine Drolet.
Four years ago at trials in Quebec, MacIsaac-Jones was pushing for an Olympic spot and barely missed the selection criteria to attend PyeongChang. But this time around, she was far from a contender – unable to crack the top five in any race and her times being well below career bests.
Her best result at national trials, where clubs from across the country competed, was seventh in the sprint classic and worst was an eyebrow-raising 18th in the 10 km classic.
MacIsaac-Jones arrived physically fit and ready, she said. As a staple on the national ski team, trials racing was well below MacIsaac-Jones’ world cup personal best 18th just one year ago.
However, her performances – the mental side – will be looked over with a microscope in the coming weeks.
“I was very nervous,” she said. “Olympic trials are a very high pressure event and it’s exciting, of course, to be racing against the top Canadians in the country and particularly because I haven’t been in these races in a few years.
“I was just trying to manage my energy and execute the pieces that I needed to and just manage the mental side of performance heading into races.”
Looking forward to a few weeks away from racing on her family’s farm in Athabasca, where she’ll have some puppy therapy waiting for her, MacIsaac-Jones added that despite the results she’s been able to confirm one thing.
“I still feel like I have this huge love for our sport and for skiing and I’m happy that although I did not achieve my goals that love for skiing is still here,” she said.
Once she’s had a mental and physical recovery, MacIsaac-Jones will start preparing for the Canadian Cross-Country Ski Championship from March 20-27 in Whistler, B.C.