Natalie Wilkie paints a picture of success

Canadian Paralympic Committee

November 24, 2020

Already a Paralympic medallist, Para nordic skier has bright future


There is a lot more to Natalie Wilkie than Para nordic skiing. She’s a painter, linguist and maybe one day a scientist. At 19, she’s not sure exactly where she is headed in this big world, but she is already making her mark on it as one of her sport’s very best. 

Wilkie is a person who doesn’t rest on her laurels or dwell on her hardships. At age 15, she lost four fingers on her left hand in a workshop accident at school. Two years later she collected a gold, silver, and bronze in cross-country skiing at the Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. She was the youngest member on the Canadian Paralympic Team at age 17 and two months. 

It’s almost as if she didn’t miss a stride from tragedy in her tender teenage years to triumph.

“For the longest time after PyeongChang, I didn’t realize how well I had actually done and what an amazing experience it was,” she said last Friday from her family home in Salmon Arm, B.C. “I’m very thankful. I’m still young and everything’s gone so well.”

Wilkie admits it’s been a fast ride.

“I was expecting a longer development even though I grew up cross country skiing,” she admitted. “In the months leading up to PyeongChang I wasn’t even sure I was going to go. I was thinking I would take it slow and ease into Para skiing because it was only the year before that I started skiing with one pole. 

“I thought at best PyeongChang would be a preparation for Beijing 2022. I got there and my plan was just to do my best with no expectations.”

Ultimately, her best in March 2018 was winning three medals, which earned her the Best Paralympic Debut for a Female Athlete accolade at that year’s Canadian Paralympic Sport Awards. 

The current pandemic has jumbled the training and competitive schedule for the 2020-21 year, the season prior to the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. 

For Wilkie that has meant more training at home. She is also studying German, as her mother is of German heritage (“I would like to be able to talk to my relatives in their language”), and she continues to paint.

“I’ve been painting for as long as I can remember and I really enjoy it,” said the two-time medallist at the 2019 world championships held in Prince George, B.C. “Mostly some water colours, some acrylic and sometimes oil. Usually my favorite subjects are animals and people and I keep an art account on Instagram.” 


Whether she is in Finland, Japan, New Zealand, or somewhere else in the world at training and competitions, the brushes, paint, and pads are always in her travel package.

“I love taking my art on trips,” said Wilkie. “The focus is so much on skiing technique it’s nice to sort of branch out to my German courses or painting as a distraction.”


Now the art and German lessons help her stay busy when time can drag on during this pandemic on her family farm in the outskirts of Salmon Arm.

“I have found it very difficult at times during this pandemic,” said Wilkie, a high school graduate last year who would like to study arts and the sciences in university. “I have done most of my training on my own or with my sisters. It’s a big adjustment. I used to go to team training a couple times a week. 

“And just not seeing people for so many weeks on end this spring, was just crazy. I live out of town so I literally saw no one except immediate family.” 

The year 2020 has been a big adjustment for all young people, with less time with friends and inconsistent school schedules. But, Wilkie again has shown maturity beyond her years to deal with new challenges. 

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