OSTERSUND, Sweden – Mark Arendz and Natalie Wilkie won three gold medals apiece at the week-long 2023 Para Nordic World Championships which concluded in Sweden on Sunday.
It was Canada’s best ever performance at the Para nordic worlds and equaled its 16-medal haul from the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games. The previous best was 10 at the 2019 worlds in Prince George, B.C.
Wilkie, a two-time Paralympian with seven Games medals, was Canada’s most decorated athlete in Sweden with five podium appearances. The 22-year-old earned two medals in biathlon with gold in the 7.5 kilometre and 12.5 kilometre and three in cross country with gold in the sprint and silver medals in the 18 kilometre and 10 kilometre.
“My biathlon success earlier this year in Finland gave me the belief that I can do it,’’ said Wilkie, from Salmon Arm, B.C. ‘’I just have to stay focused on the shooting, stay patient, and it is possible. We all put a lot of work in to prepare for this.”
Arendz, who has accumulated 12 Paralympic Games medals over four Games, posted victories on the last three days: the 10 kilometre and 12.5 kilometre biathlon races on Wednesday and Friday and the 10 kilometre cross country on Saturday. He also took silver on day one in the 7.5 kilometre biathlon.
“Coming off the last couple of days, I felt I could put myself into contention,’’ said Arendz, from Hartsville, PEI. ‘’Over the previous biathlon distance races, I have shown my speed. I wanted to start strong and see what I was able to hold in the windy conditions.”
It is the first time Arendz has ever won three events at a single event.
It was also a memorable week for Collin Cameron and Brittany Hudak with three medals each.
Cameron, from Bracebridge, Ont., won the men’s sitting 7.5 kilometre biathlon and took silver in the 18 kilometre and 10 kilometre cross country races. Hudak, from Prince Albert, Sask., was second to Wilkie in the 7.5 kilometre biathlon, and third in the 10 kilometre biathlon and 18 kilometre cross country.
Christina Picton of Fonthill, Ont. won her first career world championship medal with a bronze in the women’s sitting 12.5 kilometre biathlon. Rounding out the Canadian squad was sit-skier Derek Zaplotinsky from Smoky Lake, Alta., who enjoyed a career-best worlds with five top-10’s including a fourth in the 10 kilometre biathlon.
Canada finished third in medal count.
Germany (six gold, 12 silver, nine bronze) and Ukraine (six gold, eight silver, 13 bronze) tied for first with 27 medals.
Guimond and Turgeon on the podium at Para alpine worlds
Alexis Guimond and Frédérique Turgeon each won a bronze in their respective standing downhills last Wednesday to highlight Canadian performances at the 2023 Para Alpine World Championships held in Espot, Spain over the past week as well.
On a windy day that challenged the racers, Turgeon captured her fourth career world championship medal to go with a silver and two bronze from the 2019 edition in Kranjska Gora, Slovenia. This was Turgeon’s first podium since an injury sustained in training at the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing, China.
“It felt really awesome,” said the 23-year-old from Candiac, Que., with three top-five results at the Espot worlds. “As a team we were really focused on what we needed to do to nail this course and to keep the racing line.
“It feels really good to be back on the podium, especially in the downhill after the crash in Beijing. This is a little surreal.”
For Guimond it was his first downhill medal at a Paralympics or world championships and his first worlds podium since 2017.
“I think the team really pushed hard and we got some really good results,’’ said Guimond, from Gatineau, Que., also with three top-fives in Espot. ‘’It’s great to be back on the podium, especially in downhill.”
Kurt Oatway of Calgary, also returning from injury, enjoyed a solid week with fourth-place finishes in the downhill and giant slalom and fifth in the Super G. The four-member team was completed by Brian Rowland from Merrickville, Ont. Whose best result was 13th in the men’s sitting downhill.
With files from Alpine Canada and Nordiq Canada