Canada’s Para-Nordic Athletes Sprint to Medal Hat Trick in Finland
VUOKATTI, Fin.— Canada’s Para-Nordic athletes celebrated a triple medal day in the skate-ski sprint races at the World Cup in Vuokatti, Finland on Sunday.
Collin Cameron (Bracebridge, Ont.) captured his first victory of the season in the men’s sit-ski race, while Christina Picton (Fonthill, Ont.) and Natalie Wilkie (Salmon Arm, B.C.) both sprinted to back-to-back silvers.
Canada’s Collin Cameron stomped the men’s sit-ski field to win his first sprint race of the season, and fifth of his career including the 2019 World Championship title.
“I’m really happy with how the day went,” said Cameron. “It’s a very different course than usual, so it was a great opportunity to play with some different race tactics and try and transfer a lot of the work from the summer.”
One of the most respected athletes in the Para-Nordic world, Cameron took advantage of slick boards to control the field in each of his three rips around the 800-metre Vuokatti track. He set the top qualifying time, leading the 12 fastest skiers into the head-to-head heats. The top-three athletes in each heat move to the next round. Cameron was first across the line in the semis and final.
“The course was really narrow, so I was pretty focused on biding my time until an opportunity opened up just off a small downhill and really pushed that area,” said Cameron. “I was able to get passed two guys that started ahead of me. From there it was just ski well and hard to the finish straight, and then hard to the line.”
Cameron was joined on the podium by Yerbol Khamitov, of Kazakhstan, in second place. Taras Rad, of the Ukraine, skied to the bronze in the men’s sit-ski classification.
Derek Zaplotinsky, of Smoky Lake, Alta., was seventh. Ethan Hess (Whistler, B.C.) was 15th.
Christina Picton celebrated her second World Cup podium in as many days in the women’s sit-ski sprint race.
“Sprint day is always a blast. The fast-paced action is honestly my favourite of all the race distances. I was really pleased with how I skied in the final after making some adjustments from the qualifier,” said Picton.
The 29-year-old Paralympian finished behind Germany’s Anja Wicker. Korea’s Yunji Kim claimed the bronze.
Picton has enjoyed a breakthrough opening weekend. She won her first career World Cup silver medal on Saturday in the five-kilometre distance.
“I think the technique focus that I had throughout the summer training is a huge contributor as well as having the experience from Beijing and previous seasons,” she said. “I’ve also got an improved sled set up that is amazing to finally race on. It’s exciting to put all of those things to the test and see how they come together on the course.”
Lyne Marie Bilodeau, of Magog, Que., who also had her first career podium Saturday was fourth in the sprint.
Two-time Paralympian, Natalie Wilkie, bolted to her 14th career cross-country ski podium in the women’s 1.2 kilometre sprint standing classification.
“I’m happy with how I skied and I’m pretty excited about winning back-to-back silver medals,” said the 21-year-old. “Today was all about skiing smart and I feel that I played some good cards today. I was able to keep myself in good position throughout the heats. The biggest factor was my coaches and team keeping me on track today.”
Norway’s Vilde Nilsen won the women’s standing gold. Liudmyla Liashenko, of Ukraine, skied to third.
Mark Arendz, of Hartville, P.E.I. was seventh in the men’s standing classification. Jesse Bachinsky, of Kenora, Ont., and his guide, Levi Nadlersmith of Boissevain, Man., were 12th in the men’s visually impaired classification.
“We all had super skis again from the crew and just an all-around awesome effort from the entire team,” said Collin Cameron. “We are looking forward to a day off tomorrow and switching gears to some longer races in the next few days.”
Canada’s Olympic Stream Athletes Team Up for Eighth in World Cup Relay
Four of Canada’s Olympic stream athletes joined forces in a rare World Cup mixed team relay in Beitostolen, Norway on Sunday.
Katherine Stewart-Jones (Chelsea, Que.), Antoine Cyr (Gatineau, Que.), Dahria Beatty (Whitehorse) and Olivier Léveillé (Sherbrooke, Que.) clocked an eighth-place time of 55:40.5 in the 4x5km classic/free mixed team event.
“We all fought really hard out there today, and are happy with our team result,” said Dahria Beatty. “Team events are my favourite. I definitely dug as deep as I could for the team today. The mixed gender relays add an extra layer of excitement. I’m a big fan of them.”
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.