OTTAWA – For a post-Paralympic Games season there was no shortage of excitement for Canadian athletes in 2018-19 as veterans reinforced their dominance and new stars emerged this past winter season.
One of the most notable highlights was the 2019 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships, which were held in Prince George, B.C. The home team did not disappoint with a 10-medal performance.
Sit skier Collin Cameron of Sudbury, Ont. won his first world championship gold in the 7.5-kilometre biathlon event. Two days earlier, on day one, he took silver in the 12.5-kilometre biathlon race.
Mark Arendz, named 2018 athlete of the year in both PEI (his native province) and Alberta (his current home province), might be a front runner again for 2019 after a six-medal performance in Prince George. In cross country he took silver in the relay, 7.5km and 20-kilometre races, and in biathlon he added a silver in the 15km, and bronze in the 7.5 kilometre and 12.5 kilometre.
Canada’s other medallists were 13-time Paralympic Games champion Brian McKeever and his guide Graham Nishikawa with gold in the 20-kilometre men’s visually impaired race. Emily Young (North Vancouver), and Natalie Wilkie (Salmon Arm, B.C.) were also on that relay squad with Arendz.
Para alpine skiing
This year’s big story in Canadian Para alpine skiing was Frédérique Turgeon. Although a Paralympic team member in 2018, she made her first big international impact in 2018-19. She won the Crystal Globe for the most points in women’s slalom during the World Cup season and added three medals at the world championships.
Alana Ramsay of Calgary was a model of consistency. She capped the World Cup season with four consecutive bronze medals.
Paralympic Games champion Kurt Oatway, Saskatchewan’s athlete of the year, once again rose to the occasion with two silvers at the world championships.
Alex Massie and Sandrine Hamel carried the torch this past winter for Canada in Para snowboard with resounding success.
Massie took the Crystal Globe as the overall World Cup champion. He won 11 medals on the circuit including five victories and four second-place finishes. Eight of those medals came in the snowboard cross events and a gold and two bronze in the banked slalom.
The 21-year-old Hamel collected her first three World Cup medals: two in banked slalom and one in snowboard cross. She has placed in the top-five in nine of her 10 World Cup races this season. She capped the season with two silvers at the world championships.
Para ice hockey
For the second year in the row, Canada’s Para ice hockey team lost an overtime thriller to the U.S. In 2018 it was at the Paralympic Games and in 2019 at the world championships which concluded last Saturday in Ostrava, Czech Republic.
While the defeats are heartbreaking, it doesn’t take away from the fact that Canada likely fared better than expected this season. Despite the loss of key players, the Canadians showed they are still very close to the U.S. with three years before the next Games.
“This is only our first step in the journey to Beijing in 2022,’’ said Canada’s head coach Ken Babey. ‘’We’ve come a long way this season, even from where we were a few months ago. All week we got better and prospects for the future are really looking good.”