Canada’s Para nordic team ready to shine at World Cup Final

Comité paralympique canadien

12 mars, 2024

Mark Arendz chasing Crystal Globe

Natalie Wilkie competing.

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – A misty rain that started at the end of training Tuesday may forecast some challenging conditions ahead but that didn’t dampen the spirit of the Canadian team for the Para nordic World Cup final which runs Wednesday to Sunday at the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club.

Natalie Wilkie of Salmon Arm, B.C., one of Canada’s big stars in the sport, is more than happy to tackle even more hurdles on what is considered a very challenging course.

‘’These are some of my favorite conditions,’’ said Wilkie, 23, already with seven medals in two Paralympic Winter Games. ‘’Even though it’s a bit slushy it is still quite fast. So if you’re not careful around corners it’s easy to get bogged down or catch a ski.’’

There are some overall World Cup season titles on the line as well this week especially for 12-time Paralympic Games medallist Mark Arendz of Hartsville, PEI. He is undefeated in the biathlon event this season which includes a golden hat trick at the Para biathlon worlds held here last week.



Fourteen other countries have fielded teams here including Canada’s biggest rivals Ukraine, the U.S. and Italy.

The World Cup Final opens Wednesday with the biathlon 10 kilometre competition followed by three cross country skiing races ending with the 18-20 km (Friday is an off day) on Sunday.

The Canadians won seven medals at the Para biathlon worlds last week. The five Canadians from that event will be joined by six more skiers, some taking their first strides at this level.

Head coach Brian McKeever, Canada’s most successful winter Paralympian with 20 medals, says this will be a great opportunity for the younger team members.

‘’The importance here is on learning with every race,’’ said McKeever. ‘’We’re in race school this year trying new tactics, trying to read courses in different ways and teach the athletes different ways of looking at races.’’

This is only the third World Cup stop this season in Para nordic as weather wreaked havoc with the schedule in Europe. The fluctuations of the mercury are also being monitored here with some rain in the forecast and unseasonably mild temperatures for the weekend.

Organizers are working round the clock pumping the snow making machines and maintaining the course.

Other veterans to watch are multiple medallist Brittany Hudak, a three-time Paralympian from Prince Albert, Sask., who gives Canada a powerful 1-2 punch with Wilkie in the women’s standing events.

In sit skiing, Collin Cameron of Bracebridge, Ont., also a multiple Paralympic medallist, returns to action after missing the biathlon worlds due to illness. Fast improving Derek Zaplotinsky of Smoky Lake, Alta., is one of Cameron’s top opponents.

‘’I just missed two medals at the biathlon worlds so I want to be on the podium here,’’ said Zaplotinsky after his training on Tuesday. ‘’So far I’m feeling really good and I’m ready. I’ve been a lot more consistent in my training and that’s made a big difference.’’

Also on the squad are Emma Archibald of Gall River, N.S., Ethan Hess of Pemberton, B.C., Christina Picton of Fonthill, Ont., Lyne-Marie Bilodeau  of Sherbrooke, Que., Jesse Bachinsky of  Kenora, Ont., and his guide Levi Nadlersmith of Boissevain, Man., and Leo Sammarelli  of Vancouver.

Competition schedule: here