The Yukon cross-country skiing community was surprised by Knute Johnsgaard’s announcement Friday morning that he’s retiring from competitive skiing.
Johnsgaard competed in three events at this year’s Winter Olympics in PyeongChang, South Korea. His best finish was ninth place in the men’s 4×10 km relay.
Johnsgaard spoke to CBC’s Dave White about his decision and the demands of the sport.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
So you have decided to retire from competitive skiing…
I made the decision about a month ago now, following the end of the season.
I had some time to reflect and I realized that I’m so incredibly thankful for everything I’ve accomplished so far. I’ve received so much help along the way. I’ve accomplished so many of my big goals — the main one being the Olympics in Korea.
I’ve come to a point where I’ve accomplished these major goals and I have new and other ambitions that I’m looking forward to. Skiing has been my sole focus for so many years and I feel that I’ve gotten so much out of it and accomplished so much.
I don’t really see what the next step is or where to go.
I began to get excited about new things and skiing started to become a question mark about what’s next after the Olympics.
Can you give people an idea the kind of commitment you made to the sport over the years?
Skiing has been a full-time job for me. After high school, I went to a training centre in Quebec City. I’ve been in training in Canmore, Alta., for the past few years.
You make up in the morning and you work out and you come home and fuel yourself with good food, rest and nap. In the afternoon you’re working out again for the second time in the day and then go to a recovery session.
It’s a complicated system for high-level athletes.There’s so much that goes on behind the scenes. It’s not like we live a normal life and show up on the start line at the Olympics.
It takes a lot of dedication and a lot of other things get put on hold — a lot of your hobbies and interests that you might want to do.
Go back a couple of months to being at the Olympics. What was the moment that you said to yourself, “I made it. I’m here.”
Crossing the finish line.
It wasn’t a particularly strong performance by me but that’s not to say I didn’t give 100 per cent in that race. I crossed the finish line absolutely exhausted. I tried my absolute best. I had my mom there watching from the stands.
It was just an amazing feeling of accomplishment. It didn’t matter to me that I finished 69th place.
It’s been a delight seeing you succeed.
The pleasure has been all mine. I’ve been so incredibly thankful to have the support of everyone here in Whitehorse and abroad.
I received a banner and messages from my elementary school — Goldenhorn. I received a bag of dried meat from Old Crow and nice messages as well.
It was really special to feel all that love and support from back home. 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.