(ISN) – CABLE, Wis.—Canada’s Para-Nordic squad enjoyed their best day without a medal, chalking up two fourths and a fifth-place finish at the IPC Nordic World Skiing Championships on Saturday.
Brittany Hudak, of Prince Albert, Sask., and Mark Arendz, of Hartsville, P.E.I., both had career-best cross-country ski classic races, finishing fourth in the women’s and men’s standing divisions respectively. Paralympic champion, Chris Klebl of Canmore, Alta., scrapped his way into fifth spot in the men’s sit-ski race.
The 21 year old Hudak had the cross-country ski race of her life in the women’s five-kilometre standing division. The rising young star, who represented Canada at the Sochi Games, finished just one second off the podium behind the 2014 Paralympic champion with a time of 17 minutes, 3.8 seconds.
“I go into these races not expecting anything but with an open mind, but getting the splits from the coaches along the way motivated me to push harder,” said Hudak. “The skis were great today, the technique felt so good too so I am really happy. It was such a close race.”
Oleksandra Kononova, of the Ukraine, won the women’s standing race with a time of 15:53.0. Liudmyla Liashenko, also of the Ukraine, was second at 16:29.9. Sweden’s Helene Ripa edged out Hudak for the bronze after stopping the clock at 17:02.8.
Canada’s Para-Nordic rookie, Emily Weekes of North Vancouver, skied to 10th spot at 19:12.4.
Hudak has discovered a whole new world since being asked to try out the sport by legendary Para-Nordic athlete, Colette Bourgonje, while working at Canadian Tire in her hometown. Green to competing on snow at an elite level, Hudak joined the Canucks in Sochi. Building on that experience she made the National Development Team this year.
“The learning curve has been so huge for me,” said Hudak. “Now having the opportunity to attend national training camps, particularly the New Zealand camp this summer, I have noticed a huge improvement in my technique. It has been such an advantage for me to be in the same environment with the high-performance athletes, seeing how the train and learning from them.”
One of those athletes is Mark Arendz.
Clawing his way back into the medal mix after a difficult week in his specialized biathlon events, Arendz saved his best for last, finishing just 10 seconds off the podium pace in fourth with a time of 26:23.5 in the men’s standing 10-kilometre classic-ski race.
“Today was a fantastic day. Over the past few years the coaches and I have put in a lot of time working on my classic so I was curious to see how I’d finish,” said Arendz. “I learned from what went wrong earlier in the week. The staff gave me an amazing pair of skis and I was able to climb everything. It feels incredible to have this race today after struggling a bit through the earlier parts of the week.”
The Russians grabbed the top-two spots on the podium. Vladislav Lekomtcev set the time to beat at 25:41.4. Rushan Minnegulov was second at 25:56.2. Ihor Reptyukh, of the Ukraine, rounded out the men’s podium by clocking a bronze-medal time of 26:13.2.
The strong day for the Canucks continued into the men’s sit-ski race. Chris Klebl hammered the pace to finish with a solid fifth-place finish at 29:10.3 for his best race of this year’s premiere international Para-Nordic dance.
Russia’s Aleksandr Davidovich won the men’s 10-kilometre sit-ski race with a time of 27:45.3. Andrew Soule, of the United States, skied to the silver at 27:58.5, while Russia’s Alexey Bychenkov claimed the bronze at 28:18.9.
Yves Bourque, of Becancour, Que., placed 16th in the men’s sit-ski division with a time of 36:19.2.
The IPC Nordic World Skiing Championships wrap up on Sunday with the team relay races.