Article by Chris Dorman
Wilkie claims silver, Young celebrates first medal of the season with a bronze
CANMORE, Alta.—The Canadian women stole the show at the World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup while grabbing two medals, and placing three in the top-four, of the standing biathlon race on Thursday.
Natalie Wilkie (Salmon Arm, B.C.) extended her medal-winning streak to four at the season-opener by winning the silver. Emily Young (Kelowna, B.C.) captured her first podium of the young season with a bronze medal.
The 20-year-old Wilkie, who is known as a cross-country ski specialist, celebrated her first biathlon podium on the Para Nordic World Cup. The 2018 Paralympian took advantage of fast skis and sharp shooting to clock a second-place time of 41:15.5 (0+0+1+0).
“This is my first biathlon race in a long time, so I was really nervous coming into it,” said Wilkie. “I have needed to work a lot on shooting consistently and hitting as many targets as I could while skiing fast. I’m super pumped with the result today.”
Athletes ski five, 2.5-kilometre loops while making stops at the range between each lap. Wilkie missed just one shot in her third round, going 19 for 20 on the range. Athletes are docked a one-minute penalty for every missed shot.
“In the individual event the focus has to be on shooting slow and consistently. You don’t want those minute penalties so that was the strategy today,” added Wilkie. “I definitely want to start increasing my shooting speed though because I know in the next races that will become more important, but I also just need to continue to be consistent.’
Canada’s Emily Young skied onto the Para Nordic biathlon podium for just the fifth time in her career. The 30-year-old Paralympian was matching strides with her Canadian mate, but one miss in her final stop at the range dropped her to third place with a time of 42:13.5 (0+0+0+1).
“It was a surprise today, but if you talked to my coach and I, we have been training really hard and trusting the process of shooting while building over the last four years. It was expected that I can shoot well. It was just about doing it in a race,” said Young, who had three near podium misses in the cross-country ski events earlier in the week.
“It is refreshing to be on the podium. We had a great race for Canada yet again in our category. We have such a great women’s team. We push each other to be faster and we are really happy for each other regardless of if we finish on or off the podium.”
The final member of the Canadian women’s trio hunting down the podium was Brittany Hudak.
The two-time Paralympian from Prince Albert, Sask. had the fastest ski time on the day, but struggled on the range, missing three shots to finish in fourth with an overall time of 42:18.7 (1+0+1+1).
Russia’s Ekaterina Rumyantseva was the top woman on the day, winning with a time of 40:59.0 (0+0+0+1).
Wilkie, Young and Hudak have played a major role in helping the Canadian squad rack up a total of 13 medals in their opening four races at Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park this week.
Mark Arendz almost added to that total on Thursday.
One miss in his third round of shooting cost the Hartsville, P.E.I. resident his first biathlon podium of the season.
The eight-time Paralympic medallist finished just shy of the podium in the men’s standing division, placing fourth with a time of 34:15.5.
Benjamin Daviet, of France, shot clean to win the classification with a time of 33:13:8. Daviet was flanked on the podium by two Russian skiers. Aleksandr Pronkov was second at 33:38.6 (0+0+1+0), while Vitalii Malyshev held off a hard-charging Arendz for the bronze medal. Malyshev clocked-in at 34:07.7 (0+0+1+0).
Jesse Ehman (Saskatoon) was 11th at 41:40.9 (0+1+0+0).
Other Canadian results included Christina Picton (Fonthill, Ont.) placing fifth in the women’s 12.5-kilometre sit-ski race with a time of 46:35.3 (1+0+0+0). Collin Cameron (Sudbury, Ont.) was eighth in the men’s sit-ski classification with a time of 40:44.4 (0+3+1+0). Derek Zaplotinsky (Smoky Lake, Alta.) was 12th at 47:36.8 (2+0+1+5).
The final two biathlon competitions of the World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup in Canmore are set for this weekend.
Complete Para Nordic Skiing World Cup Canmore Results: https://bit.ly/3oHfrQs