Canadian Para-Nordic Team Puts Silver Lining around Medal Winning Season
PARK CITY, Utah—Canada’s Para Nordic Team capped off a dream season by adding a trio of silver medals to their list of accomplishments on a season that saw the team win an unprecedented 41 World Cup medals, 16 World Championship medals and two Crystal Globes.
“Changes are typically expected at the beginning of a new Paralympic quadrennial. For the Para Nordic team, it meant two new coaches (Brian McKeever and Menno Arendz) hired mid-season and a new manager, Bjorn Taylor. Change always comes with unknowns so our performance expectations were conservative for the first year of the quad, with new coach leadership and coming off a big build up to Beijing 2022,” said Kate Boyd, high-performance director, Para Nordic. “Closing out the season with best ever performances from the team exceeded everyone’s expectations. Every day, the coaches left no stone unturned in the preparation, and the team of athletes stepped to the line fully prepared which resulted in multiple podium performances each race. This highly professional team of athletes, staff and coaches strive for excellence every day in a safe, inclusive, welcoming and supportive environment. The results are proof the culture of trust and respect that was created within our program is the foundation that continues to drive all of us forward regardless of the changes we face. I’m so proud of each and every one on the team.”
The 33-year-old Arendz, who won a Crystal Globe for finishing first overall in biathlon, continued one of his most successful all-around seasons by skiing to second place with a time of 49:16.1.
“It has been an incredible season. Starting the season, not sure I would even travel to the first World Cup, then to achieve what I have,” added Arendz, who had double ankle season last summer. “It was my best biathlon season in my career.”
Japan’s Taiki Kawayoke won the race with a time of 48:27.0. Benjamin Daviet, of France, was third at 49:42.6.
Canada’s Collin Cameron took home a Crystal Globe of his own for finishing first overall in the men’s sit-ski World Cup cross-country skiing standings.
The 34-year-old from Bracebridge, Ont. was relentless in his podium pursuit, stopping the clock at 57:03.3.
“It was such an awesome day. I’m so happy with today’s race and how I paced it,” said Cameron. “I owe a big thanks to the wax techs again. I’m so happy to finish off the season with a race like that. An awesome day and season for the entire team.”
Italy’s Giuseppe Romele won with a time of 56:10.5. Pavlo Bal, of the Ukraine, finished third at 57:29.6.
Derek Zaplotinsky (Smoky Lake, Alta.) skied to fifth with a time of 1:01:06.6. Ethan Hess (Pemberton, B.C.) was 11th at 1:04:19.7, and British Columbia’s Leo Sammarelli placed 15th with a time of 1:09:20.8.
Natalie Wilkie continued her dominance that was on full display throughout the 2022-23 campaign. The 22-year-old from Salmon Arm, B.C. completed the silver-medal hattrick for the Canucks after rocketing to a second-place time of 54:13.9 in the women’s standing classification.
“I had so much fun doing a mass start, and skiing together with all of the other competitors and I was able to put some good strategies and tactics to use,” said the two-time Paralympian. “I tried hard to drop Vilde (Nilsen) in the last lap, but she was able to win the sprint to the finish. All in all – it was a great race, and I’m happy to finish the World Cup season on a high note.”
Norway’s Nilsen held off the charging Wilkie, winning with a time of 54:10.7. Liudmyla Liashenko, of Ukraine, was third at 55:10.2.
Brittany Hudak (Prince Albert, Sask.) was fourth with a time of 55:14.7.
Lyne-Marie Bilodeau, of Magog, Que., raced to fourth place in the women’s sit-ski event, stopping the clock at 1:25:10.5.