CANMORE, Alta. – Remember that 2018 Para nordic team that won 16 of Canada’s record 28 medals at the Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang? Well it appears all the medallists are back and itching to get the 2021-22 season started at the opening World Cup which starts Saturday at home in Canmore.
“The team is excited to get the race season underway, what we love doing is getting to compete,” said Brittany Hudak to mountainviewtoday.ca. Hudak earned a bronze medal in the 12.5-kilometre cross country race in her Paralympic Games debut in South Korea.
There’s been a dearth of competitive opportunities for Para nordic athletes since the COVID-19 pandemic rocked the planet in early 2020. Suddenly this season, three winter sports – Para nordic skiing, Para alpine skiing and Para snowboard all have a world championships and Paralympic Games on the agenda.
According to the IPC, more than 125 athletes from 15 nations are expected in Canmore at the event which runs from December 4-12 and incudes both cross country and biathlon races. Admission is free, with COVID-19 safety measures in place to safeguard public health.
Viewers across Canada can also follow the action via live stream on CBCsports.ca.
The 17-member Canadian team is led by the legendary Brian McKeever, Canada’s most successful winter Paralympian with 17 medals in the visually impaired events, and Mark Arendz of Hartsville, PEI who collected a team-high six medals at both PyeongChang 2018 and the 2019 world championships.
“I want to be ready for that first race, and that's why it's always been for me, March 5th that's the day where I need to be ready for and that's in my head,” Arendz told CBC.ca about his preparations for Beijing 2022. “We're into the fun stuff. This is now, it's about the last few weeks, last few months and eventually it'll be the last few days and it's about having that fun setting up everything.”
Two 2018 Paralympic triple medallists are also on the team – sit-skier Collin Cameron of Bracebridge, Ont., and Natalie Wilkie of Salmon Arm, B.C., who was just 17 years old in PyeongChang. North Vancouver’s Emily Young, who won a silver and bronze at the 2018 Games, will also be competing in Canmore.
"This year, more than ever, I’m just very curious to see where everyone else is at with such few competitions happening, I think there’s a lot of unknown,’’ said Hudak. ‘’That’s the thing that’s been lacking in that high-performance environment where everyone comes together and we’re all competing for the same goal."
The other Canadian team members for the men are Sébastien Fortier of Quebec City, Yves Bourque of Bécancour, Que., Ethan Hess of Pemberton, B.C., Derek Zaplotinsky of Smoky Lake, Alta., Jesse Ehman of Saskatoon, Jesse Bachinsky of Kenora, Ont., Kyle Barber of Sudbury, Ont., Leo Sammarelli of Vancouver and Logan Cox of Kimberley, B.C.
Rounding out the women’s side are Christina Picton of Fonthill, Ont., and Lyne-Marie Bilodeau of Sherbrooke, Que.
Arendz, Hudak, Picton, Young, Zaplotisnky, Cameron, Ehman, Wilkie and Barber will compete in both the cross country and biathlon events.
Race days are December 4 and 5 with the cross country short and middle-distance events, followed by the sprint events on December 7. Biathlon competition starts December 9 with the individual races, the sprint on December 11, and closing out on December 12 with the biathlon middle distance. Start time is 10 a.m. MT each day at the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park.
For more information, visit the official site HERE.