Powerful Start: Canada’s Para Nordic Team Secures Six World Cup Podiums Despite Early Season Obstacles!
Toblach, Italy – The Para nordic World Cup season has been anything but straight forward. Lack of snow, Schedule changes and event cancellations have been a constant theme and challenged Canada’s award-winning team to think outside the box.
Historically, the Para nordic World Cup season starts early December. This season the first races started in late January. This, combined with a historic snowless start to the season, posed even more challenges for the athletes.
” It’s been a strange year without a World Cup at the start of the winter,” said Derek Zaplotinsky, a 2022 Paralympian and member of Nordiq Canada’s National Ski Team. “In November, I returned home, to Smoky Lake (Atla,), after a large training block in Canmore to no snow on my home trails. The only option for me to do volume training was to ski on the lake behind my parents’ farm. My dad groomed a 5 km track on the lake, which turned out to be fun when it wasn’t windy.”
“It was difficult to plan and organize the team logistics in advance,” said Kate Boyd, High Performance Director of the Para nordic stream. “This is the latest we’ve been able to confirm competition plans for athletes and staff, so we’ve had to adapt and remain flexible throughout.”
In high performance sport, planning is key to performance results. Yearly training plans are outlined four years in advance, while an athlete’s daily training plan is shaped around seasonal events, to maximize performance on demand.
After last year’s record setting season – 41 World Cup podiums, 16 World Championships medals, and 2 Overall World Titles – the team has high expectations for the first World Cup’s in Toblach.
“My focus is on refining and experimenting with my training methods throughout the race season, rather than fixating on replicating results. My goal is to stay consistent and focus on the process,” said reigning Overall World Cup Para biathlete winner Mark Arendz.
The focus paid off with Arendz winning the season opening 10km classic individual race by 57 seconds over Japan’s Taiki Kawayoke. Not only was it the first race of the season, but the first classic technique race since an injury prevented Arendz from competing in the discipline since the 2022 Beijing Paralympics.
“I’m really happy with how I was able to come back to classic racing with a win, and excited to see the work I’ve put into rehabilitation and training paid off.”
The podiums in Toblach continued through the opening two days of racing with Arendz taking silver in the 10km classic mass start, Brittany Hudak from Prince Albert, Sask. grabbing silver in the 10km classic individual and bronze in the 10km classic mass start, and Derek Zaplotinsky winning back-to-back bronze in the 10km individual and 10km mass start.
“Seeing Mark (Arendz) win his first classic race back from injury, really fired up the team,” said Hudak. “The team came together in celebration, and the great results kept coming. Seeing Derek (Zaplotinsky) get his third World Cup Podium, and even our younger athletes having personal bests has the team in a really great place. We’ve created a great atmosphere and a good place to build from. We have our sights set high looking at Prince George.”
This year Prince George B.C. will play host to the 2024 Para Biathlon World Championships and Para Nordic World Cup Finals March 5th-17th.
Emma Archibald finished sixth and fifth in her first ever World Cup races, Ethan Hess finished 16th and 13th, while Lyne-Marie Bilodeau finished eighth and ninth.
“We know we have a very competitive team on the international stage; however, it is always great confirmation once we get back to World Cup racing to see how we compare,” said Boyd. “We’ve had personal bests from everyone on the team so far. With the sprints and the 10km in the free technique coming up this weekend, I’m excited to see what’s to come.”
Para nordic racing continues in Toblach for two more events, before heading to Martell Italy.