Mark Arendz Crowned Paralympic Biathlon Champion in Beijing
BEIJING, Chn— Mark Arendz’s 10th career Paralympic medal may have been his best performance yet on sport’s ultimate stage for athletes with a disability.
The 32-year-old struck gold after shooting clean in the men’s 10-kilometre standing biathlon event where he skied to a time of 31:45.2.
“It feels good right now. That was a battle,” said Arendz following the flower ceremony. “I have had great shape and haven’t been able to convert it into the results I’ve wanted so far in the Games so I may have been a little more determined to make sure this one counted.
“I could hear the drum, which is the heartbeat of Canada, banging from the shooting range. It felt pretty special to feed off that and accelerate in the shade (down the finishing stretch) to the finish line and take the win in front of the Canadians cheering.”
The middle-distance biathlon race requires each athlete to ski five, two-kilometre loops around the Zhangjaikou National Biathlon Centre. Athletes stop at the range for a round of five shots between each lap. Athletes ski a 150-metre penalty loop for every missed shot.
Arendz was locked into a head-to-head battle with his top competitor in the standing classification, Grygorii Vovchynskyi of the Ukraine, throughout the race held under warm temperatures that produced slower snow conditions.
Vovchynskyi had a 20 second lead on the Hartsville, P.E.I. product in the third lap. He closed it to 14 seconds before the two frontrunners headed into the final round of shooting.
The sharp-shooting Canuck went clean, while Vovchynskyi headed to the penalty loop after missing one target in his final bout.
“I knew that was my chance. It was a small one because I know he can ski really fast, but it opened the door,” said Arendz. “When I saw him miss one and go to the penalty loop, I knew that was my time to go. I just charged as hard for as long as I could to the finish line.
Vovchynskyi’s one miss dropped him into the silver medal position with a time of 32:18.0. Alexandr Gerlits, of Kazakhstan, skied to the bronze medal with a time of 33:06.5 despite missing three shots.
The victory was Arendz’s second biathlon medal of the week. He kicked off the 2022 Paralympics by winning the bronze in the short distance race, bringing his career total to two gold, three silver, and five bronze.
The four-time Paralympian also won bronze in the middle-distance biathlon races at the last two Paralympics when the event was contested at 12.5 kilometres.
Just prior to Arendz’s golden triumph, Canada’s Brittany Hudak battled to sixth place in the women’s 10-killometre standing classification. Hudak, of Prince Albert, Sask., missed two shots while clocking a time of 37:43.1.
“It was a fun one. This race you have to ski fast and shoot well,” said Hudak, who won a bronze in Monday’s 15-kilometre classic-ski race. “Coming off a medal performance day, I tried to relax into it and thought ‘I’m just going to go for it.’
“I tried to ski hard, but unfortunately missing the last shot in my last bout took me off the podium. I’m happy I just went for it today, but obviously I’m a little disappointed in the result.”
Ukraine’s Iryna Bui shot clean to win the women’s biathlon standing competition with a time of 36:43.1.
Emily Young, of North Vancouver, went 18/20 on the range for eighth place with a time of 39:27.8.
Canada’s Derek Zaplotinsky finished eighth in the men’s sit ski category. The Smoky Lake, Alta. athlete posted a time of 32:56.4.
“It was a solid race. I had good energy. The shooting range was good. It could have been a little better, but that is biathlon,” said Zaplotinsky.
China’s Liu Mengtao missed three shots but held on to win the men’s sit-ski event with a time of 30:37.7.
Christina Picton, of Fonthill, Ont. was also eighth in the women’s sit-ski race with a time of 39:15.9.
Kendall Gretsch, of the United States, posted the winning time of 33:12.3 with one miss.
The action will heat up on Wednesday at the Zhangjaikou National Biathlon Centre with the women’s and men’s cross-country ski sprint races.
Check out CBC’s streaming and TV viewing guide to catch all of the Para-Nordic action in Beijing.
Complete Paralympic Biathlon Results: https://www.paralympic.org/beijing-2022/results