Mark Arendz and Brian McKeever picked up right where they left off from the 2018 Paralympic Games, skiing to gold and silver, respectively, at the IPC Nordic World Cup opener in Finland on Wednesday.
Arendz, Canada’s closing ceremony flag-bearer at the 2018 Games, kicked off the event winning the 10-kilometre cross-country ski race in the standing division.
Arendz, who set a record by landing on six podiums in Pyeongchang won the race with a time of 27 minutes 2.4 seconds.
Born in Charlottetown and now residing in Canmore, Alta., Arendz was please with how his season started off.
“This was a fantastic way to kick off the new season. I’ve had some historical moments here in [Finland]. I competed in my first World Cup race here, had my first World Cup biathlon victory here and now my first cross-country ski victory,” said Arendz following the 10-kilometre classic-ski jaunt on firm tracks in Finland.
“I’ve felt all year that I have been trending in the right direction. In the summer I felt so strong — especially in my classic and that has pushed me to strive for more,” added the eight-time Paralympic medallist. “I’ve been working to refine the small details to continuously improve my classic-skiing and I believed that showed today. This is a great boost of confidence to start the new World Cup season.”
McKeever misses top of podium
In the men’s 10-kilometre visually impaired category McKeever, Canada’s most decorated Paralympian, had his hands full in the season opener.
Racing without his guide Graham Nishikawa, who was sidelined with an injury, the 39-year-old McKeever was bumped off the top step of the podium by Sweden’s Sebastian Modin.
“I just didn’t have anything today,” said the Calgary native. “But even if I was fast today, I wouldn’t have beaten him. Sebastian was impressive today.”
McKeever clocked in at 27:35.1 to claim the silver medal, while Modin set the time to beat at 26:05.7.
“I tried to settle into a pace, but I knew the way it was going after I was a lap in that it was over. It was going down in a hurry. It was a bit frustrating, but there is no reason to panic. Tomorrow is another day, and we will see how the skating is.”
Other Canadians results include Natalie Wilkie, of Salmon Arm, B.C., placing fifth in the women’s 7.5-kilometre standing race with a time of 25:26.6. Vancouver’s Emily Young was eighth at 25:52.3, while Brittany Hudak, of Prince Albert, Sask., was 10th (26:15.2).
Colin Cameron, of Sudbury, Ont., was the top finisher in the men’s 7.5-kilometre sit-ski race, placing seventh at 24:12.7. His Canadian teammate, Derek Zaplotinsky of Smokey Lake, Alta., finished on his heels in eight with a time of 24:30.5.