Wax techs credited for leading Canada’s Para nordic athletes into the history books

Brian McKeever, Natalie Wilkie, Mark Arendz win gold, Emily Young battles to bronze

By Nordiq Canada

SAPPORO, Jpn.– Canada’s Para Nordic Team celebrated a historic end to the 2019 World Cup season with a four-medal haul, thanks to the work of the magicians in the Canadian wax room in Sapporo, Japan.

The Canadian anthem was played three times in the Nishioka Stadium with Brian McKeever and his guide Graham Nishikawa, Mark Arendz and Natalie Wilkie all winning gold in the short distance cross- country ski races. Emily Young added a bronze to the bag of loot for the Canucks.

“It was a heck of a day,” said the 39-year-old McKeever. “When the wax team hits it like today, especially given the tough conditions, it’s almost unfair for the rest of the countries.”

McKeever, of Canmore, Alta., and Nishikawa of Whitehorse, dusted the field in the men’s five-kilometre visually impaired category after posting a golden time of 14:24.7. Norway’s Eirik Bye finished 53 seconds off the pace at 15:17.8. Ukraine’s Dmytro Suiarko claimed the bronze medal with a time of 15:37.0.

With Canada’s Paralympic legend setting the tone, it was an 18-year-old emerging star of the women’s program following suit.

Natalie Wilkie, of Salmon Arm, B.C., snagged a gold of her own in a thrilling 2.5-kilometre women’s standing race. A three-time medallist at her first Paralympics one year ago, Wilkie edged out Norway’s Vilde Nilsen by one second to win the gold medal with a time of 8:31.6. Nilsen stopped the clock at 8:32.9.

North Vancouver’s Emily Young shared the podium with Wilkie after a tough battle with the Ukraine women. The 28-year-old Young capped off her most successful week of World Cup racing by winning her second bronze medal in Japan with a time of 8:47.1. Young kicked off the final World Cup stop of the year with a silver and bronze in the biathlon events.

“Our skis were the best in the field. Our wax techs absolutely gave us the best skis possible for the conditions,” said Young. “This distance is not a long time to fix your mistakes, but it also feels like the longest sprint race of your life. The wax techs did it all today. They know how to work their magic and yell to motivate us around the course.”

Brittany Hudak, of Prince Albert, Sask., was sixth in the women’s standing division with a time of 9:02.5.

Mark Arendz completed the golden hat trick for the Canadians. The 29-year-old bookended his stellar season that also saw him winning six World Championship medals with another golden standard in the men’s five-kilometre standing division. Arendz, of Springton, P.E.I., skied into the winner’s circle with a time of 13:53.9.

“It was a fantastic team effort today in tough conditions that suited us well,” said Arendz, who struggled through Saturday’s cross-country ski race. “It feels amazing to lay down an incredible performance today.

“I felt great right from the start and pushed exactly how I wanted. Our team just nailed the skis and gave us the best boards possible for all conditions today.”

Benjamin Daviet, of France, skied to the silver at 14:06.1. Japan’s Taiki Kawayoke claimed third place with a time of 14:12.6.

Derek Zaplotinsky, of Smoky Lake, Alta., finished fifth in the five-kilometre sit-skiing race with a time of 17:07.0.

It is the second time in the history of the program the Canadians have won three gold on the same day. Brian McKeever, along with Chris Klebl and Colette Bourgonje, also accomplished the feat in 2011.

Complete Results: https://bit.ly/2TII95w