SJUSJOEN, Nor.—Canada’s para-nordic cross-country ski athletes mounted a double attack on the podium winning a silver and bronze medal at the season-opener of the IPC World Cup in Sjusjoen, Norway on Thursday.
With new 33-year-old Calgary-based guide, Eric Carleton, leading the way, Brian McKeever of Canmore, Alta., battled through windy and foggy conditions on a challenging 20-kilometre skate-ski course to post a silver-medal time of 49 minutes, 32.0 seconds (49:32.0).
“We came in here a little tired from the racing we’ve been doing over here in Europe, but are happy with the way we skied today,” said the 32-year-old McKeever, who has been racing able-bodied races in Europe over the last two weeks. “Eric did a great job guiding today. We did as good as we can, but just plain got beat.”
Russia’s Stanislav Chockhlaev and his guide of Maksim Pirogov won the gold with a time of 49:22.7. Nikolay Polukhin and Andrey Tokarev, also of Russia, claimed the bronze at 51:19.2.
Carleton, who led McKeever to three gold and onesilver medal in their debut as new partners at the 2011 World Championships,executed the race plan perfectly while on a technically challenging, hilly and slow course.
“Definitely when it is windy you have to change things up a bit because it is a lot more work to be in the front,” said Carleton. “Brian and talked about things today and traded the lead a bit. It was a good plan and turned out to be a pretty good day.”
The charge to the podium for Canada continued in the women’s 12-kilometre sit-ski race.
Colette Bourgonje, of Saskatoon, hung on for theride of her life while battling the difficult Nordic trails in Sjusjoen to win the bronze medal with a time of 38:14.6.
“It was like being on a bobsleigh track with all of those downhills today,” said the 49-year-old Bourgonje, who has participated in all six Paralympic Winter Games in addition to three Paralympic Summer Games. “The course was very technical with lots of hills and it was a tight race, but we had great support from our wax techs and it went well today.”
The reigning World Champion in the sit-skiing distance race, Bourgonje captured a silver and bronze medal at the 2010 Paralympics before being recognized at the closing ceremonies as the 2010 recipient of the prestigious Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award at the Vancouver Paralympics, a solid gold medal recognizing individuals who conquer adversities through the pursuit of excellence in sport.
“I’m not sure why I’m still going, but I seem to still be here,” laughed the 49-year-old Bourgonje. “I love cross-country skiing and I’m in a position now where I’m getting more people trying the sport in Saskatchewan. I like the training and challenging myself. If I win a medal that’s great, but I like trying to do the best I can.”
Ukraine’s Lyudmyla Pavlenko won the women’s sit-ski race with a time of 36:41.2. Germany’s Andrea Eskau hung on for the silver medal after clocking-in at 37:21.0.
Bourgonje and the Canadian squad will hit the start line on Friday for a team relay.
Cross Country Canada 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 55,000 members include athletes, coaches, officials and skiers of all ages and abilities, including those on Canada’s National Ski Teams and Para-Nordic Ski Teams. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Haywood Securities Inc., AltaGas, Teck Resources Ltd., Canadian Pacific, and Statoil – along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee and Own the Podium, Cross Country Canada develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on Cross Country Canada, please visit us at www.cccski.com
Complete IPC World Cup Biathlon Results: http://www.ipc-nordicskiing.org/Results/index.html?