Historic Relay Bronze Highlights Career
Canadian cross-country skier Knute Johnsgaard announced his retirement through a blog post on April 20. Born in 1992, he grew up near Whitehorse, Yukon, began skiing at the young age of six and went on to compete in the Junior World Championships in 2012 and the Elite Worlds in 2017. He was part of the men’s Canadian relay team that won historic bronze, their first-ever medal in the relay, at Ulricehamn, Sweden in January 2017. Johnsgaard became a Canadian Olympian at the Pyeongchang 2018 Games, highlighted by a ninth-place finish in the men’s 4x10km relay. In an interview with CBC, the 25-year-old Yukon native spoke maturely about his path to the highest level, explaining that it may not be as picture-perfect as everyone thinks. “The world of sport is cruel, in that I was always left wanting more. When you believe anything is possible, then everything less than perfect is not good enough,” said Johnsgaard. “I always found myself striving for the next step that I could only hope would bring satisfaction. Instead, it brought only desire for greater success, which only got exponentially harder to achieve as I climbed the ladder.” He opened up about struggling with depression and anxiety throughout his career, associating the battle for success in sport with mental illness. “The final step was hard for me, and near the end of my career, I began to struggle with anxiety and depression. It took so much energy that I didn’t have anything left over for ski races anymore, and I wasn’t happy," he wrote in his blog. After returning from the Olympics, the Yukon native made the decision and felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders, and is now looking forward to setting down roots back home. Although removed from the international scene, he doesn’t want to distance himself entirely from the cross-country-ski world and is considering coaching younger athletes. When his decision was announced, Johnsgaard had the entire town of Whitehorse behind him, supporting their local star with positive messages, banners and even dried meat. “It was really special to feel all that love and support from back home,” he concluded in the CBC interview. “It really meant a lot to me. To have that support from family and friends back home whether or not you’re standing on the podium is so special. No matter what it’s worth it. It makes the whole journey more enjoyable.”
(l-r) Len Valjas, Alex Harvey, Knute Johnsgaard and Devon Kershaw celebrate men's relay bronze in 2017.