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    • Para Nordic Skiers Kick Off World Cup Season with Double Medal Day in Finland

      December 12, 2018

       VUOKATTI, Fin.—Canada’s flag bearers for the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, Brian McKeever and Mark Arendz, skied to the gold and silver medal at the IPC Nordic World Cup opener in Vuokatti, Finland on Wednesday.
      Mark Arendz (Springton, P.E.I.) was the first championed crowned in the new season in the men’s standing division, while Brian McKeever (Canmore, Alta.) settled for the silver medal in the men’s visually impaired category.
      The 28-year-old Arendz, who set a record for skiing onto the podium in each of the six races he entered at the 2018 Games before carrying the Canadian flag into the closing ceremonies, picked up where he left off winning his first ever IPC World Cup cross-country ski race with a time of 27:02.4.
      “This was a fantastic way to kick off the new season. I’ve had some historical moments here in Vuokatti. I competed in my first World Cup race here, had my first World Cup biathlon victory here and now my first cross-country ski victory,” said Arendz following the 10-kilometre classic-ski jaunt on firm tracks in Finland.
      “I’ve felt all year that I have been trending in the right direction. In the summer I felt so strong – especially in my classic and that has pushed me to strive for more,” added the eight-time Paralympic medallist.  “I’ve been working to refine the small details to continuously improve my classic-skiing and I believed that showed today. This is a great boost of confidence to start the new World Cup season.”
      Japan’s Taiki Kawayoke was the next best finisher in second place with a time of 27:14.4. Ukraine’s Grygorii Vovchynskyi clocked-in at 27:47.8 to secure the bronze medal.
      In the men’s 10-kilometre visually impaired category, Canada’s most decorated Paralympian Brian McKeever had his hands full in the season-opener.
      Racing without his guide Graham Nishikawa who was sidelined with an injury, the 39-year-old McKeever was bumped off the top step of the podium by Sweden’s Sebastian Modin.
      “I just didn’t have anything today,” said McKeever, who has been battling jet leg with his Canadian teammates. “But even if I was fast today, I wouldn’t have beaten him. Sebastian was impressive today.”
      McKeever punched the clock at 27:35.1 to claim the silver medal, while Modin set the time to beat at 26:05.7.
      “I tried to settle into a pace, but I knew the way it was going after I was a lap in that it was over. It was going down in a hurry. It was a bit frustrating, but there is no reason to panic. Tomorrow is another day, and we will see how the skating is.”
      Ukraine’s Iaroslav Reshetynskyi skied to a bronze medal pace throughout each of the four laps, finishing with a time of 29:08.2.
      Other top-10 finishers for the Canadians in Vuokatti included Natalie Wilkie, of Salmon Arm, B.C., placing fifth in the women’s 7.5-kilometre standing race with a time of 25:26.6. Vancouver’s Emily Young was eighth at 25:52.3, while Brittany Hudak, of Prince Albert, Sask., was 10th (26:15.2).
      Colin Cameron, of Sudbury, Ont., was the top finisher in the men’s 7.5-kilometre sit-ski race, placing seventh at 24:12.7. His Canadian teammate, Derek Zaplotinsky of Smokey Lake, Alta., finished on his heels in eight with a time of 24:30.5.
      The IPC World Cup continues on Thursday in Finland with the short-distance cross-country ski race.
       
      CCC is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada, which is the nation’s optimal winter sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually. Its 60,000 members include athletes, coaches, officials and skiers of all ages and abilities, including those on Canada’s National Ski Teams. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Haywood Securities Inc., AltaGas, Swix and Lanctôt Sports– along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Own the Podium and B2Ten, CCC develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on CCC, please visit us at www.cccski.com.