Derek Zaplotinsky Highlights Canadian Para-Nordic Team’s Five Medal Day in Utah
PARK CITY, Utah—Canadian sit skier, Derek Zaplotinsky, highlighted a five-medal day for the nation’s best Para Nordic skiers at the Soldier Hollow World Cup Finals on Wednesday.
The 37-year-old Zaplotinsky skied to his first Para Nordic World Cup podium, winning the bronze medal in the men’s sprint races.
“It was a super fun day to be able to ski with my teammate Collin In the semifinal and final,” said Zaplotinsky. “It was a long time coming to get on that podium, but it sure feels good.”
Zaplotinsky’s triumph marked a historic day for Canada’s powerful Para Nordic Team. It was the first time the nation has celebrated two Canadian sit skiers on the same podium.
The 34-year-old Cameron celebrated his sixth career World Cup victory to go along with his two World Championship titles.
“It’s an amazing feeling to come here and win on day one,” said Cameron, who has three sprint victories this season. “To share the podium with Derek is the greatest. He’s been working towards this for so long and it was amazing to see him cross the line in third, and finally nab his first ever podium. I’m so proud of that guy today.”
Ukraine’s Taras Rad was sandwiched between the Canadians in the silver-medal position.
Ethan Hess, of Pemberton, B.C, was eighth. Leo Sammerelli, a Nordiq Canada NextGen athlete from British Columbia, placed 17th.
It has been quite a journey for Zaplotinsky who was left paralyzed from the waist down following a motorcross racing accident in 2006 when another bike landed on him. He returned to sport four years later, first as a Para cyclist before joining the Para Nordic program. It was a trip to the 2015 Canada Winter Games where he realized his potential.
Developing through the Canadian system over the last decade, the Smoky Lake, Alta. resident has been knocking on the door of the elite podium with four, fourth place finishes.
Christina Picton (Fonthill, Ont.) continued a breakthrough season of her own in the women’s sit-ski classification.
The 29-year-old had one of her strongest races of the season, claiming the bronze.
“I’m happy with this result. I’ve been racing against these ladies all season, so it is exciting to be joining them on the podium,” said Picton. “I’m very grateful for the fast skis and the good tactics from the coaches. Overall, it was a great day.”
Kendall Gretsch, of the United States, won the women’s sit-ski race. Germany’s Anja Wicker was second.
Lyne-Marie Bilodeau (Magog, Que.) skied to fifth place.
Picton and Bilodeau are core pieces of a new era for the Canadian Para-Nordic Team that has a new group of leaders which includes women’s standing athletes Brittany Hudak and Natalie Wilkie.
The 29-year-old Hudak from Prince Albert, Sask. skied steady, strong and confident while skiing to the silver medal.
“I’ve been feeling pretty good here, but I definitely notice the altitude a bit while skiing,” said Hudak. “It adds a different element to the race tactics so that’s something I’m keeping in mind. Sprints aren’t my strongest discipline, but I do find the classic sprints fun.”
Wilkie, a 22-year-old from Salmon Arm, B.C, was hot on Hudak’s heels while crossing the line in third place.
The Canadians finished behind Norway’s Vilde Nilsen who took top spot on the sprint podium.
The Para-Nordic World Cup resumes on Thursday at Soldier Hollow with the five-kilometre skate-ski races.