Canada’s Para Nordic Ski Team claims 3 gold medals, bronze to open World Cup Season

Canada’s Para Nordic Ski Team won three gold medals and a bronze at the Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park in Canmore, Alta., to kick off the Paralympic season on Saturday.

Salmon Arm, B.C., native Natalie Wilkie and teammate Brittany Hudak of Prince Albert, Sask., tied for first in the women’s 7.5-kilometre standing classification race. Both athletes were awarded a gold medal.

“It is such a great feeling to win here in Canmore,” said Wilkie, who claimed a sixth career World Cup podium finish. “We were looking forward to this week and I know Team Canada has a lot more to give.

“It was awesome to share the podium with Brittany [Hudak]. I went into today wanting to do my best, to keep up with Brittany, and now I want to keep this momentum going.”

For Hudak, it was her first career victory on the Para World Cup by tying Wilkie’s time.

“It was the best feeling getting the tie with Natalie,” Hudak said. “There is really nobody I’d rather tie with. We spend a lot of time training together, and pushing each other to be better, so it was super great to see where our shape is at.

Competing in his hometown, 17-time Paralympic medallist Brian McKeever and his guide Graham Nishikawa also claimed gold in the men’s 7.5km visually impaired race.

McKeever, 42, was pleased with his time of 18 minutes 54.2 seconds. 

“I’m surprised we won today. At our age now, every day is a little different and you never know how the body is going to react, but anytime you are competitive, that is a win for sure,” he said.

“The young guys out here are getting faster every year which is good. It is getting way more competitive now. I’m very happy with the start and to know we are in the game.”

Mark Arendz of Hartsville, P.E.I., who served as Canada’s flag bearer for the closing ceremony of the 2018 Winter Paralympics, won the bronze medal in the men’s standing division.

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