Veteran Derek Zaplotinsky wins first career Para nordic skiing World Cup gold

Canadian Paralympic Committee

March 14, 2024

Wilkie, Arendz add silver and bronze in cross country races.

Zaplotinsky gold

PRINCE GEORGE, B.C. – Nine-year national team veteran Derek Zaplotinsky of Smoky Lake, Alta., earned his first career Para nordic skiing World Cup victory on Thursday winning the men’s sitting five kilometre cross country race.

Natalie Wilkie of Salmon Arm, B.C. added a silver in the women’s standing event and Mark Arendz of Hartsville, PEI took bronze in the men’s standing race.

Zaplotinsky, 38, clocked the classic style race in 12 minutes and 59.7 seconds for the win. He beat 2022 double Paralympic Games champion  Mengtao Liu of China second in 13:04.7.  Cristian Ribera of Brazil was third in 13:07.3.

‘’It’s been a lot of years of work to get here and it feels amazing,’’ said the two-time Paralympian. ‘’I’ve been feeling really strong all week and I knew I had the speed. We’re all so close right now at this level that it was always one second here or there that was costing me.

‘’But I finally put one together.’’

Ethan Hess of Pemberton, B.C. was 16th and Leo Sammarelli of Vancouver 20th.

Three-time Paralympic medallist Vilde Nilsen of Norway took the women’s standing five kilometre cross country in 15:11.7 followed by Wilkie second in 16:07.2.  Liudmila Liashenko of Ukraine was third in 16:14.2. The Ukrainian edged fourth place Brittany Hudak of Prince Albert, Sask., by a mere 0.1 seconds.

Wilkie and Arendz

Wilkie has been battling foot pain this week and was unsure whether she would race Thursday.

‘’To get the silver is awesome,’’ said the 23-year-one pole skier already with seven Paralympic medals over two Games. ‘’It was painful this morning when I put my boot on but once the race started I decided to go for it and eventually forgot about it.’’

National team rookie Emma Archibald of Fall River, N.S. was 14th.

In the men’s standing five kilometre cross country, Taiki Kawayoke of Japan was the winner in 13:41.3. Witold Skupien of Poland was second in 13:52.8 and Arendz followed in 14:15.2.

On Wednesday, Arendz won the gold in the 10 kilometre biathlon to claim the Crystal Globe as the overall season champion in the biathlon.

‘’The hardest thing today was just switching techniques,’ said Arendz, 34, a 12-time Paralympic medallist over four Games. ‘’I haven’t really touched my classic in awhile to focus on the freestyle for biathlon, so it was really trying to feel that finesse that you need in these softer snow conditions.’’

2022 Paralympian Christina Picton of Fonthill, Ont., was fourth in the women’s sitting race just a minute from the podium while Lyne-Marie Bilodeau of Sherbrooke, Que., was seventh.

Jesse Bachinsky of Kenora, Ont., and his guide Levi Nadlersmith were 11th in the men’s visually impaired race.

Friday is an off day. Action resumes Saturday with the cross country sprint events.

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