Canada’s mighty Para nordic team certainly arrived in Vuokatti, Finland ready for the season ahead, concluding the opening World Cup of the year on Sunday with 22 total medals.
Natalie Wilkie, Mark Arendz, Brittany Hudak and Christina Picton all made one final trip to the podium in the 7.5-kilometre biathlon events to cap off the dominant opening performance.
Twenty-one-year-old Wilkie snagged her fifth medal of the week, and second in biathlon, striking gold with a time of 24:21.1 in the women’s standing category.
“Vuokatti has been a great World Cup opener for me,” she said. “I didn’t expect to have such good results, but I’m very happy with how things have turned out. It’s always good knowing where I stack up against my competitors this early in the season especially with World Championships coming up in January.”
The cross-country ski specialist from Salmon Arm, B.C. – who has racked up seven medals in her two trips to the Paralympic Games – is now developing into a podium threat each time she hits the line in biathlon competitions. Wilkie shot clean in her two rounds of shooting on Sunday.
“This race was a highlight for me this week. I shot clean and won the gold medal,” said Wilkie. “I’ve struggled to shoot quickly in the range, so my focus today was on skiing hard right off the start to try and make up time. I really felt the speed on my skis today and it carried over into my shooting as well. I was excited to see some great results from the whole team.”
Ukraine’s Liudmyla Liashenko finished second after missing three shots on the range, clocking a time of 25:07.3. Standing athletes have to ski a 150-metre penalty loop for every missed shot.
Liashenko edged out Hudak, of Prince Albert, Sask., for the silver.
Hudak’s fast skis and perfect shooting resulted in her fourth medal of the week – a bronze in the women’s standing biathlon sprint race. The three-time Paralympic medallist clocked the third fastest time of the day at 25:07.8, just .5 behind the Ukraine.
Arendz shot clean to win a silver medal of his own in men’s standing classification with a time of 21:33.9. It was the third medal of the week for the 32-year-old from Hartsville, P.E.I.
“It was a great wrap up to the week, and to one of my best starts to a season that I have ever had,” said Arendz, who had double ankle surgery during the offseason. “The results were well beyond my expectations going into this World Cup.”
A winner of 12 Paralympic medals, Arendz narrowly missed his third biathlon gold of the week. Benjamin Daviet, of France, topped the Canuck by 1.9 seconds. Daviet posted the winning time at 21:32.0.
Germany’s Marco Maier was third at 21:53.3 (0+1).
Canada’s Picton grabbed her fifth medal of the World Cup opener, posting a third-place time of 29:19.7 in the women’s sit-ski competition. Picton, of Fonthill, Ont., was forced to ski a 100-metre penalty loop twice for two missed shots.
Germany’s Anja Wicker remained unbeaten in Finland, stopping the clock at 24:07.4 (0+1). Korea’s Yunji Kim was second after a perfect day of shooting, finishing with a time of 28:45.6.
Collin Cameron, of Bracebridge, Ont., was seventh in the men’s sit-ski race with a time of 23:20.4 (1+0). Derek Zaplotinsky, of Smoky Lake, Alta., was ninth at 23:56.1 (2+0).
For full results from the Vuokatti World Cup, please click HERE.
With files from Nordiq Canada
Shelby Newkirk, Tess Routliffe among winners at Para swimming meet in Vancouver
Many of Canada’s top Para swimmers were competing on home soil this past weekend, with the Ken Demchuk International Invitational taking place in Vancouver.
Shelby Newkirk and Tess Routliffe, both veterans of Team Canada, were among the racers to capture victories.
On Saturday, Routliffe won the women’s SB7 100-metre breaststroke in one minute, 38.90 seconds. She also won the S7 100-m freestyle in 1:18.91.
“I’m happy with the swims,” said Routliffe, who was a triple medallist at this year’s world championships.
“I’m happy to be where we are right now. We have training behind us. Now we can go into the next few months of more specialized strokes.”
Newkirk won the SB5 100-m breast in 2:10.42 and the S6 100-m freestyle in 1:27.61.
“This meet is kind of figuring out where we are at, see how the technique is going,” said Newkirk, a world champion gold medallist in the 100-m backstroke. “It’s a good time to play around with what works and what doesn’t.
“For me, I’m ahead of where I was last year. That’s always the goal at this point.”
Jacob Brayshaw also impressed, setting multiple records over two days. On Saturday, he broke his own Canadian record by swimming the S2 50-m backstroke in 1:48.73 during the morning preliminaries. He swam a time of 1:49.30 in the final.
He also swam the S2 100-m freestyle in 3:48.16, lowering his time of 3:52.01 in the preliminaries. That shattered his previous record of 4:07.79.
Brayshaw had three Canadian record-breaking swims during Friday’s opening night, twice in the S2 100-metre backstroke and once in the 200-m freestyle.
For full results from the Ken Demchuk International Invitational, please click HERE.
With files from Swimming Canada
Canadian women just off podium at goalball world championships
Canada’s women’s goalball team concluded the 2022 Goalball World Championships in Matosinhos, Portugal on Friday with a fourth-place finish, falling to Israel 4-2 in the bronze-medal game.
The result matches the squad’s finish at the last world championships in 2018, but improves upon its ninth place at last summer’s Paralympic Games.
Turkey came home with the gold, while South Korea – who defeated Canada in the semifinals – took the silver.
In the men’s tournament, Canada finished 13th. Medals were won by Brazil, China, and Ukraine.
The top two finishers punched an early ticket to the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, with Turkey and South Korea earning spots in the women’s tournament and Brazil and China doing the same for the men.