Knute Johns­gaard

His­toric Re­lay Bronze High­lights Ca­reer

SkiTrax - - Contents - by Ron John­son

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.

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