Natalie Wilkie strides into next chapter in phenomenal career

Canadian Paralympic Committee

April 02, 2024

‘’I’m always chasing the next goal’’

Natalie Wilkie in action

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – At age 17, Para nordic skier Natalie Wilkie was the youngest member on Canada’s Paralympic Winter Games team for Pyeongchang in 2018. She left South Korea with a complete medal set: gold, silver and bronze and a teen phenom was born.

After accumulating more hardware at world championships and World Cups, the Salmon Arm, B.C. native improved to four medals with two gold, a silver and a bronze at the 2022 Paralympics. In Beijing, she was Canada’s youngest medallist and its most successful athlete.

Even with seven medals in two Games, at 23, Wilkie considers her career, a work in progress. Just over the past week, she won a phenomenal gold medal in the women’s 7.5 kilometre at the Para biathlon world championships and added a bronze in the 12.5 kilometre event.

This week at the World Cup Final she’s captured silver and bronze in the cross country races.

‘’I’m always chasing that next goal,’’ said Wilkie during a break in training this week at the Caledonia Nordic Ski Club. ‘’Right now it’s tomorrow’s (Sunday’s) race (the grueling 20 kilometre cross country event).’’

Before her accident, Wilkie was a high-performance junior cross-country skier in British Columbia. In 2017, she was selected for the BC Nordic Team following her bronze-medal finish at the Canadian Ski Championships.

Shortly afterwards she lost four fingers on her left hand in a workshop accident at school. Despite what must be difficult memories of that day, Wilkie said it could have been worse.

She strapped on her skis two weeks later and was quickly introduced to the Paralympic program. She adjusted to skiing with one pole although she admits she is still mastering that skill.

Another skill to learn was the biathlon which combines cross country skiing and shooting. That’s why her performance at the recent worlds was such a huge step in her career. At both Paralympic Games all her medals where in cross country races.

‘’For me it’s the shooting at a high heart rate that I find really hard,’’ said Wilkie, now based in Canmore, Alta. ‘’In the races last week I really improved in how I managed my shooting in the range. That was important and a key to success because I take a long time to set up on the mat and actually get my shots off.’’

Canada’s Para nordic national coach Brian McKeever says Wilkie’s enthusiasm on and off the trails is infectious.

‘’She’s a veteran,’’ he said. ‘’A veteran is not always about age. It’s just a culmination of experiences.

‘’She came through a strong club system in Canada. Once you hit the Paralympics and have those experiences you’re putting that into your mental and competitive war chest.’’

With the Milan-Cortina winter Paralympics less than two years away, it appears Wilkie is on target for her best Games yet.

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