It’s not a guarantee of a spot on the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games team but it’s definitely a giant footprint in the snow for the Para skiers named to their respective national teams this past month by Cross Country Canada and Alpine Canada.
The Para nordic World Cup team announced by Cross Country Canada on May 5 are for the men: Mark Arendz of Hartsville, P.E.I., Collin Cameron of Sudbury, Ont., Chris Klebl of Canmore and Brian McKeever of Canmore with his guide Graham Nishikawa of Whitehorse.
On the women’s side the World Cup team members are Brittany Hudak of Saskatoon and Emily Young of Kelowna, B.C.
The prospects team members are Sébastien Fortier of Quebec City, Derek Zaplotinsky Smokey Lake, Alta, Ethan Hess of Vancouver and Natalie Wilkie of Larch Hills, B.C.
The 27-year-old Arendz shined at last February’s World Championships in Finsterau, Germany, winning five medals overall, including two golds, one silver and two bronze. He reached the podium in all men’s biathlon standing events, finishing first in the middle distance and the sprint, and taking silver in the individual. He also added two bronzes in the cross-country middle distance and open relay.
‘“It will take some time to forget about that week,’’ said Arendz about the worlds. ‘’The focus on what I had to do for each race, the excitement for each competition but then refocusing on the task at hand. To sound cliché, I was in the zone.”
McKeever, a 10-time Paralympic Games champion and Nishikawa excelled at the worlds winning two titles in the men’s cross-country visually impaired. Even though he is the man to beat in his events, he expects to face the toughest challenges of his career in 2017-18.
“It's getting very tough since the younger skiers are getting so much faster each year and the gap is shrinking each month,” he said. “I love that this is finally happening as more racers are clearly training at the top level and have made significant technical improvements. I'm proud that this is happening in the Para nordic world.
‘’We are all improving because of it and the collective level is getting super high.”
Meanwhile Alpine Canada also announced its nominations for the Canadian ski teams including Para alpine on May 18. For the men it is Alexis Guimond of Gatineau, Que., Braydon Luscombe of Duncan, B.C., Kirk Schornstein of Spruce Grove, Alta., Kurt Oatway of Calgary and Mac Marcoux of Sault Ste Marie, Ont., with his guide Jack Leitch of Banff, Alta.
For the women it is Alanna Ramsay of Calgary and Erin Latimer of Toronto.
At the world championships this past January in Tarvisio, Italy, the Canadian Para alpine Ski Team tallied 11 medals, the second-highest medal count over five days of races.
Marcoux and Leitch led the charge with four gold, Ramsay stepped to the podium four times and Guimond, a national team rookie, also took a bronze.
The development team members are: Mel Pemble of Victoria, Mollie Jepson of Whistler, Frederique Turgeon of Mont-Tremblant, Que., and Alex Cairns of Squamish, B.C.
The head coach is Jean-Sébastien Labrie of Quebec City and athletic director Matt Hallat of Squamish.