Mark Arendz Extends Golden Streak to Three at Para Nordic World Championships
OESTERSUND, Swe.— A team dinner outing to Bastard Burger in Oestersund, Sweden last night resulted in a triple stack of medals for Canada’s Para Nordic Team on Saturday at the World Championships.
The usual taboo in-season treat paid off for Mark Arendz who won his third straight World Championship title in an intense men’s standing skate-ski race. Natalie Wilkie and Collin Cameron each skied to silver medals.
“I went for the Los Angeles (burger). It must have been a fast one. Washed it down with an Oreo milkshake too,” chuckled the 32-year-old Arendz after claiming his sixth World Championship title.
Please forgive the 12-time Paralympic medallist for indulging.
He has logged countless miles two-planking up and down the hilly Swedish tracks over the last week where he has claimed four medals of his own in a Canadian team performance that has the Para Nordic skiers around the world stopped in their tracks questioning the secret ingredient.
Arendz was the top man in the field again on Saturday, winning his first cross-country ski race at a major event while chalking up 10 more kilometres in a time of 24;34.6.
“Coming off the last couple of days, I felt I could put myself into contention. Over the previous biathlon distance races, I have shown my speed,” said Arendz, who won back-to-back biathlon races this week. “I wanted to start strong and see what I was able to hold in the windy conditions. This is the first time I have ever won three events at a single event.”
Poland’s Witold Skupien was second at 25:17.2. Benjamin Daviet, of France, clocked a bronze-medal time of 25:19.6.
It was the 19th World Championship podium for Arendz (13 biathlon, 4 cross country, 2 relays), who hails from the Hartsville, P.E.I.
The four-time Paralympian credited the team outing for completing his golden hat trick, and for Team Canada’s medal-winning run at the premier Para Nordic event.
“Taking moments away from the constant drive to perform and go out for a casual dinner can shift the focus. Taking the pressure off for a moment just might be enough to raise the performance the next day,” said Arendz.
“I think regardless of the results, there are always performances throughout the team that we celebrate. Someone is always having a breakthrough day and that keeps the momentum going.”
Arendz topped Saturday’s celebrations with his Paralympic teammates – Natalie Wilkie and Collin Cameron – who added a pair of silvers to Canada’s record-setting medal haul at the World Championships, bringing the team tally to 16.
Natalie Wilkie (Salmon Arm, B.C.) celebrated winning her third World Championship title of the week yesterday by taking a bite out of a “Los Angeles” of her own topped up with a side of fries.
The 22-year-old Wilkie was back to business on the start line Saturday, battling to her fifth medal of the week – this time in the women’s 10-kilometre skate-ski event.
The two-time Paralympian, who claimed her first three World Championship victories this week, took 27:47.9 to complete her four laps.
Norway’s Vilde Nilsen set the time to beat in the individual start race, stopping the clock at 27:13.8. Sydney Peterson, of the United States, was third at 27:57.9.
Brittany Hudak, of Prince Albert, Sask., was sixth at 29:20.4.
Collin Cameron opted to stay at the hotel yesterday evening to get some additional rest to “shake off” a cold that he has been battling.
The veteran move paid off as the 34-year-old from Bracebridge, Ont. was back bombing up and down the 2.5-killometre sit-ski course. Cameron clocked a second-place time of 29:48.5.
Italy’s Romele Giuseppe set the golden pace at 28:46.0. Taras Rad, of Ukraine, skied to the bronze medal with a time of 30:25.9.
Derek Zaplotinsky (Smoky Lake, Alta.) was ninth at 31:43.2.
On the heels of her first career World Championship bronze medal, Christina Picton (Fonthill, Ont.) placed fifth in the women’s sit-skiing event at 38:57.6.
While Arendz, Wilkie, Cameron and crew reverted to their regular pre-race meals of Swedish rice, potatoes and a handful of veggies, the Canadian support team each got their mitts on a slice of local pizza delivered to the wax room to keep them fueled through the World Championship grind.
“The team of wax technicians puts in many hours and kilometres each day testing skis, waxes and structures to ensure this team of athletes always have world-leading skis,” said Kate Boyd, who is tasked with steering the medal-winning ship and keeping things light and supported as Nordiq Canada’s Para Nordic High Performance Director.
“It is important that they are fueled and set to perform. Sometimes it’s coffee, sometimes its chocolate. On a busy day like a sprint day or towards the end of a long week, a pizza is a welcome quick meal. Our skis have been turning heads and earning our athletes medals here, and that is all thanks to our world-class team of Canadian technicians and coaches.”
And certainly, following the final set of relay races slated for Sunday at the Para Nordic World Championships, all of Team Canada have earned the opportunity to grab their beverage of choice and toast this record-setting performance.
Complete Para Nordic World Championship Results: