CANMORE, Alta.— (Cross Country Canada) - Canada’s Emily Young got the Paralympic year off to a bronze-medal start on home snow at the Canmore Nordic Centre on Saturday.
It was the fourth career Para-Nordic World Cup medal for the 26-year-old, fourth-year member of the National Ski Team. Young also captured a bronze at last year’s IPC World Championships.
“The sprints are a hard way to start. It’s a long day, but a good way to get everything going,” said Young. “My skiing got better as the day went on. It’s only December so for the first World Cup race of the season, it was really good.”
The Vancouver native clocked the third-fastest qualifying time around the world-renowned Canmore Nordic Centre in the classic-sprit race, earning one of 12 spots in the women’s standing division heats.
Young advanced to the final with two of her Canadian mates – rookie Natalie Wilkie and Brittany Hudak - after winning her semifinal heat.
Focused on earning a spot on the Canadian squad for the first time at the Paralympics in three month’s time, Young charged after Neutral athlete, Eakaterina Rumyantseva, while leading the pace in the chase pack. Wilkie caught young on the steep climb out of the stadium, but Young fended off the attack with a strong finishing kick to top her two teammates.
“In the final, my goal was to hold my technique, keep skiing, and do the best I can,” said Young. “"Three Canadians in the final made it so much better. We are bringing Natalie Wilkie in. We support each other in the race, won't cut each other off, but when it comes down to it - it's everyone for themselves. You saw that today.”
Wilkie, of Salmon Arm, B.C., impressed the Canadian team coaches with a fourth-place finish in her first World Cup race. Hudak, of Prince Albert, Sask., skied into fifth spot.
“I’m pretty happy with the race day overall. I felt better in the finals and semifinals than I did in the qualifier. I had a few more nerves in the qualifier, and didn’t have the technique set down,” said Hudak. “I tried to relax a little more in the semis, and think about power and glide.
“The sprints are always fun. It can be different with everyone aiming for the same corner. You can push yourself a little bit harder.”
Neutral athletes, Rumyantseva and Anna Milenina, were the first two skiers to cross the finish line in the final.
Biathlon specialist, Mark Arendz, was the lone Canadian to qualify in the men’s standing category. The Hartsville, P.E.I. resident’s day came to an end in the semifinal, putting him in eighth spot overall.
Benjamin Daviet, of France, won the men’s classic-sprint race in the standing division.
The IPC World Cup continues on Sunday in Canmore, Alta. with the cross-country skate-skiing middle distance races.