Mark Arendz and Brittany Hudak Race to Gold and Bronze at Para Nordic World Championships
OESTERSUND, Swe.— Canada’s Mark Arendz sniped a gold medal while Brittany Hudak battled to the bronze in the men’s and women’s standing competitions at the 2023 Para Nordic World Championships in Oestersund, Sweden on Wednesday.
Arendz, of Hartsville, P.E.I, snagged his fourth World Championship title, claiming top spot in the men’s 10-kilometre test, posting a winning time of 27:56.2.
“I was frustrated with my shooting performance from the sprint, so I had to refocus on what mattered today,” said the 32-year-old, who was second earlier this week in the biathlon short distance race. “The range was challenging today with changing lighting and variable wind. The key for me was to remain in control in the range.”
The four-time Paralympian was perfect with the rifle in his hands, knocking down all 20 targets – the lone competitor to shoot clean in the field. He mixed sharp shooting together with strong skiing to deliver gold.
“I started skiing steady, and each lap I was able to increase my pace,” said Arendz. “I worked on being patient, and not rushing the skiing.”
Arendz solidified the gold medal after Ukraine’s Grygorii Vovchynskyi missed one shot in his final stop at the range, forcing him to ski one 150-metre penalty loop and dropping him to second place at 28:29.0.
Serhii Romaniuk, of Ukraine, was third at 29:24.6.
The second medal of the 2023 World Championships for Arendz is the 16th podium of his career at the premier event in a non-Paralympic year, and 11th in biathlon competitions. Arendz has also racked up 12 Paralympic medals.
The Canadian trail to the podium continued in the women’s standing event where Brittany Hudak continued her medal-winning streak to three this week in Sweden.
The 29-year-old slogged out a third-place finish in the women’s 10-kilometre standing event. Hudak completed her five loops in a time of 34:40.7.
“Today felt a bit tougher for me, but I’m happy that I was able to refocus after a less than ideal first bout of shooting,” said Hudak.
The biathlon ace from Prince Albert, Sask., had a mountain to climb early in the race to get her back into podium contention after missing two of her first shots.
“It was very windy at times on the course so that played with my mind a bit in the range, but I trust our staff and focused on what I can control,” added Hudak. “I felt like some of the pressure was off, and I actually relaxed more, which seemed to help.”
Hudak, an experienced athlete on the international scene who has three Paralympic medals in three Games appearances, was perfect in her middle two stops at the range. She missed one in her final bout but remained focused on her tactics to the finish.
“I’m happy that I was able to stay focused on my own race and keep the negative thoughts at bay after a rough start,” added Hudak. “Once I settled in, I was more content with my shooting and skiing.”
Two Ukraine athletes finished on the top-two spots of the podium. Liudmyla Liashenko placed 32:16.4 (2+0+1+0). Bohdana Konashuk claimed the silver at 33:34.8 (0+0+0+1).
Derek Zaplotinsky was the only other Canadian to start on Wednesday. The Smoky Lake, Alta. product mixed a strong day of shooting and skiing to finish fourth in the men’s 10-kilometre sit-ski race. Zaplotinsky posted a time of 34:28.9 (0+0+1+0).
Taras Rad, of Ukraine, shot clean to win the classification with a time of 33:08.9.
The Para Nordic World Championships continue on Friday with the biathlon distance races.
Complete Para Nordic World Championship Results: