After seeing his longtime dream come true in Pyeongchang, Whitehorse cross-country skier Knute Johnsgaard said he feels accomplished and satisfied in stepping away from the sport competitively.
The Yukon Olympian announced his decision in a blog article Friday where he highlighted his long journey to the top ski circuit and ultimately the 2018 Olympic Winter Games.
“I feel completely accomplished and that was my main goal and I’ve been there and I’ve done that,” Johnsgaard said of his Olympic experience. “I’m ready for a new goal.”
In his blog post, Johnsgaard recalled watching the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver from the top of a tree he climbed to get a better view of the action.
“I didn’t even know who was who and I certainly didn’t realize that seven years later I would share the same podium with these guys having just won Canada’s first-ever relay medal,” he wrote.
The 25-year-old skier said following the recent Games, he took the time to reflect on his career and previous season and came to the decision that he was satisfied.
“After the Olympics I guess my perspective on skiing and racing competitively changed a little bit. Making it to the Olympics was such a big goal for me and I was at a loss for what’s next or where do I go from here.
“It was a good exit opportunity having achieved these major goals of mine. There’s other things to life other than skiing, which have been put on hold.”
Following the competitive season, Johnsgaard returned to the Yukon for the fifth annual Father Mouchet Memorial Loppet in Old Crow which he helped found.
This experience reminded him of the true spirit of skiing and that there is more to the sport than the competitive aspect, Johnsgaard said.
“It really reminded me that it doesn’t matter what place I came in at the Olympics or that I was disappointed at certain results this past season. It filled me with joy to look at it a different way and look at all that skiing has given me,” he said. “To see joy on the kids in Old Crow bombing down the hill with just a big smile on their faces.”
Johnsgaard said now that he is retired from the competitive sport, he will be returning to the Yukon looking for work and to settle down.
“I’m super excited to have settled down somewhere instead of travelling all over the world. It was such a great time and now I’m ready to stay put in the Yukon,” he said as he was packing up his place in Canmore to move back to the territory. “That’s home and that’s where I love to be.”
He said he has a new set of goals which include working, acquiring land, building a house, managing his family’s trapline and exploring the mountains and rivers of the territory.
But this won’t be the end of skiing altogether for Johnsgaard who said he hopes to stay involved with the Yukon ski program to give back to the community he received invaluable support on his journey.
“I really feel an obligation, but not just an obligation, but a desire to give back,” he said, noting he would be interested in volunteer coaching at the grassroots level. “It’s something I love to encourage and it gives me pleasure to see that other youth are having the same opportunities that I had.”
Johnsgaard added that if the national ski championships were to return to Whitehorse, he would most definitely strap on the skis and race again at home.