Successful Olympics for Dahria Beatty

Yukoner Dahria Beatty made her second trip to the Olympic Games last month, competing in cross-country skiing for Team Canada at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics held Feb. 4 to 20, 2022, in Beijing, China.

Beatty finished 28th in the skiathlon, 25th in the free sprint, 18th in the 10-kilometre classic, ninth in the women’s relay, 12th in the team sprint, and 39th in the 30-km mass-start free.

The 10-km classic was her best Olympic finish to date, and her results in the skiathlon and sprint both improved upon her 2018 races.

“It was a really great games. I’ve definitely enjoyed my experience and I’m happy with some of the races I had,” Beatty said in an interview earlier this month. “(It’s) definitely a very positive takeaway from these Olympics; I was going in hoping to have some strong races and I was especially happy with the 10-km classic.”

Beatty said things ran smoothly with respect to the games but that after three and a half weeks in a “bubble” in China, she was ready to head back to Europe for a “change of scenery.”

The cross-country skiing took place in Zhangjiakou, a city of 4.5 million northwest of Beijing.

“It’s quite a beautiful, mountaineous region. It’s extremely arid though – it’s very close to the desert region so it’s extremely dry,” Beatty said. “It was cold and not a ton of snow, so it definitely had a desert feel.”

Although the pandemic and usual Olympic precautions combined to keep athletes from getting out and exploring, the ski trails had a piece of history built right in.

“Right where the ski trails were, a small part of the Great Wall of China ran through … that had kind of been slightly reconstructed,” Beatty said, explaining it had not been completely restored into a tourist site like one might picture from a post card. “It was still an actual section of (the wall) which was cool.”

Comparing the 2022 Olympic Games to 2018, the obvious difference (other than location) was the lack of crowds and spectators cheering on athletes. Luckily for Beatty and the rest of Team Canada, competing in empty stadiums is old hat now.

“That part was definitely different. It was a shame not having crowds but we’ve been racing the last two years without crowds so at this point, that actually didn’t feel that different from what we’ve been used to lately. We weren’t able to share it with family and friends, which was tough, but it also just took a whole aspect of the logistics out of it which kind of made things simpler to just focus on racing,” Beatty said. “Really why you’re there is trying to perform as best as possible, so although it changed the experience in that sense, in not being able to share it – that once or twice in a lifetime moment – with your family and friends, it did simplify the whole process of trying to coordinate leaving the village and all that stuff to see people. Even at the last Olympics although it was not during a pandemic, we were still in a closed-loop system and it was difficult to leave that to visit with friends and family.”

So there was at least a bit of a silver lining.

“For the disappointment of not being able to share that (experience), it did make it easier to just focus on the racing – not that that’s necessarily worth it – but it was, like I said, a little bonus in the disappointment.”

Despite the empty stands, Beatty said she could feel the support coming from all the way in Whitehorse.

“So many people reached out after the races and during the races; it was so awesome,” Beatty said. “Obviously my close friends and family (were) up watching but so many other people in the community as well. It was really heartwarming to see just how many people were willing to wake up in the middle of the night to watch me on TV for a couple seconds, possibly, with no guarantee of actually seeing me. … I could definitely see all the cheering and support from back home, which meant a ton to me.”

While Beatty was competing in China, Yukon skiers were racing on the US Super Tour and at the FIS Junior World Ski Championships.

“It’s great to see that continued strength coming out of the Yukon like it has for the last 15 years consistently. Definitely looking forward to ending the season at Nationals and teaming up with Sonjaa (Schmidt) for the team sprint,” Beatty said. “Our boys there will have a super strong team as well. It’s really exciting and to have had Sonjaa as a training partner this fall and summer with her training out of a Calgary program and coached by the same coach I am has been really cool.”

As the skiing world typically functions in quadrennials – four year periods ending in the Olympics – the natural question is what’s next for Beatty.

“I am planning to continue to ski for at least one year. Beyond that, I’m not sure, but there are still some things in skiing that I hope to be able to accomplish,” Beatty said. “There is never any certainty, but I’ve always wanted to do the entire Tour de Ski and so I’m hoping there are a few things like that I can try to do next year.”

Retiring immediately after an Olympic Games just doesn’t make sense for Beatty, given the highs and lows involved.

“I’ve always been a bit wary of leaving sport on an Olympic year because it’s such a high to a possible low afterwards and it’s kind of nicer to go out on not such a big-scale thing,” Beatty said. “My plan, whether I make the national team next year or not, is to ski one more year and hopefully check off some things I’ve wanted to do on the World Cup and (in) international racing.”

After that? Well, Beatty said she’s just not thinking that far ahead.

“I’ll see where my motivation is from there, but that’s as far as I’m looking.”