Canadian Para-Nordic Team Fires Up Four Medal Day to Cap Off World Cup Opener
VUOKATTI, Fin.— Canada’s Para-Nordic Team will need an extra suitcase when they return home from Finland to bring back their haul of 22 medals collected at the season-opening World Cup.
Natalie Wilkie, Mark Arendz, Brittany Hudak and Christina Picton all made one final trip to the podium on Sunday in the 7.5-kilometre biathlon events to cap off a dominant opening performance in Vuokatti, Finland.
The 21-year-old Wilkie snagged her fifth medal of the week, and second in biathlon, striking gold with a time of 24:21.1 in the women’s standing category.
“Vuokatti has been a great World Cup opener for me. I didn’t expect to have such good results, but I’m very happy with how things have turned out. It’s always good knowing where I stack up against my competitors this early in the season especially with World Championships coming up in January,” said Wilkie.
The cross-country ski specialist from Salmon Arm, B.C. – who has racked up seven medals in her two trips to the Paralympic Games – is now developing into a podium threat each time she hits the line in biathlon competitions. Wilkie shot clean in her two rounds of shooting on Sunday.
“This race was a highlight for me this week. I shot clean and won the gold medal,” said Wilkie. “I’ve struggled to shoot quickly in the range, so my focus today was on skiing hard right off the start to try and make up time. I really felt the speed on my skis today and it carried over into my shooting as well. I was excited to see some great results from the whole team.”
Ukraine’s Liudmyla Liashenko finished second after missing three shots on the range, clocking a time of 25:07.3. Standing athletes have to ski a 150-metre penalty loop for every missed shot.
Liashenko edged out Brittany Hudak, of Prince Albert, Sask., for the silver.
Hudak’s fast skis and perfect shooting resulted in her fourth medal of the week – a bronze in the women’s standing biathlon sprint race. The three-time Paralympic medallist clocked the third fastest time of the day at 25:07.8, just .5 behind the Ukraine.
Mark Arendz shot clean to win a silver medal of his own in men’s standing classification with a time of 21:33.9. It was the third medal of the week for the 32-year-old from Hartsville, P.E.I.
“It was a great wrap up to the week, and to one of my best starts to a season that I have ever had,” said Arendz, who had double ankle surgery during the offseason. “The results were well beyond my expectations going into this World Cup.”
A winner of 12 Paralympic medals, Arendz narrowly missed his third biathlon gold of the week. Benjamin Daviet, of France, topped the Canuck by 1.9 seconds. Daviet posted the winning time at 21:32.0.
Germany’s Marco Maier was third at 21:53.3 (0+1).
Canada’s Christina Picton grabbed her fifth medal of the World Cup opener, posting a third-place time of 29:19.7 in the women’s sit-ski competition. Picton, of Fonthill, Ont., was forced to ski a 100-metre penalty loop twice for two missed shots.
Germany’s Anja Wicker remained unbeaten in Finland, stopping the clock at 24:07.4 (0+1). Korea’s Yunji Kim was second after a perfect day of shooting, finishing with a time of 28:45.6.
Collin Cameron, of Bracebridge, Ont., was seventh in the men’s sit-ski race with a time of 23:20.4 (1+0). Derek Zaplotinsky, of Smoky Lake, Alta., was ninth at 23:56.1 (2+0).