Canada’s Para-Nordic Athletes Open World Cup Biathlon Season with Four Medals
VUOKATTI, Fin.— Canada’s Para-Nordic athletes combined to win four medals on Tuesday at the World Cup biathlon season opener in Vuokatti, Finland.
Paralympic medallists, Natalie Wilkie and Mark Arendz, sniped victories in the women’s and men’s standing classifications.
Wilkie, a 21-year-old from Salmon Arm, B.C., celebrated her first biathlon victory on the World Cup, clocking a golden time of 46:32.2 in the women’s 12.5-kilometre individual start race.
“It was an awesome day for our team with four medals and many more great performances by my teammates,” said Wilkie. “This being my first biathlon victory was extra special for me.”
The seven-time Paralympic medallist in cross-country skiing missed just one shot in her four rounds of shooting to capture her third podium of the week on a frigid day in Vuokatti. She won silver in both of the first two cross-country ski races over the weekend.
“The race was really tight at first with four skiers all vying for the top spot,” said Wilkie, who added the individual start biathlon race puts a premium on shooting with one-minute penalties being added for every missed shot.
“I was moving up and down the ranks as people hit or missed shots every lap. I went 19/20 in shooting, and was able to keep up a fairly fast ski pace which gave me the lead position heading into the final two laps. After that it was all about skiing as fast as I could. A big shout out to the wax techs for the speedy skis, and to the coaches for helping me out.”
Wilkie shared the podium with her teammate Britany Hudak of Prince Albert, Sask. A bronze medallist in the 12.5-kilometre biathlon race at each of the last two Paralympic Games, Hudak battled her way to the silver medal despite two misses in her third round of shots.
Bohdana Konashuk, of the Ukraine, claimed the bronze at 49:15.5.
Canada’s Christina Picton battled through a difficult day to hang on for second spot with a time of 1:00.51 in the women’s sit-ski classification. The 29-year-old missed one shot in each of her last three bouts of shooting.
Germany’s Anja Wicker shot clean while posting a winning time of 46:23.7. Korea’s Seunghee Han was third at 1:10:58.1 (0+1+0+0).
Canada’s biathlon ace, Mark Arendz, got his World Cup season off to a perfect start. The 32-year-old from Hartsville, P.E.I., combined sharp shooting with fast skiing to post a winning time of 39:20.4 in the men’s 12.5-kilometre biathlon competition.
“It was a fantastic start to the season. I know I’m not anywhere near my best, but it is reassuring to see the results so far,” said the 12-time Paralympic medallist, who had double heel surgery during the offseason.
The four-time Paralympian topped one of his top competitors, Grygorii Vovchynskyi of the Ukraine, in the men’s race. Vovchynskyi also shot clean on the range, posting a silver-medal time of 41:22.9.
Alexandr Gerlits, of Kazakhstan, was third at 43:59.0 (1+0+1+1).
Derek Zaplotinsky, of Smoky Lake, Alta., finished just off the podium in the men’s sit-ski race. Zaplotinsky missed one shot in his first stop at the range, placing him fourth at 46:33.2.
The opening Para-Nordic World Cup stop of the season continues on Wednesday with the 10-killometre individual start classic cross-country ski races.
Nordiq Canada is the governing body of para nordic and cross-country skiing in Canada, which is the nation’s optimal sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually. Its 60,000 members include athletes, coaches, officials and skiers of all ages and abilities. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Swix, Lanctôt Sports and Pembroke – along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Own the Podium, Nordiq Canada develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on Nordiq Canada, please visit us at https://nordiqcanada.ca.