FINSTERAU, Ger.—Canada’s Mark Arendz struck gold on the opening day of the 2017 World Para-Nordic Ski World Championships, winning the men’s 7.5 kilometre standing biathlon race on Saturday in Finsterau, Germany.
The two-time Paralympic medallist from Hartsville, P.E.I. enjoyed a perfect day of skiing and in his four rounds of shooting on the range to clock a golden time of 30:39.3.
“I have left the last few World Championships wanting more, especially after my success in Sochi, so there has been a lot of work to get this,” said Arendz, who added the warm weather and hard-packed snow were conditions that suited his strengths. “To accomplish this in my first race is a huge confidence boost as I head into the rest of the week. It is a fantastic way to kick off the week.”
It was just the second World Championship title for the 26 year old, and first podium at the premiere international race in a non-Paralympic year in three years. Arendz won a gold in a biathlon sprint race, along with two bronze in 2013.
“The biggest change for me has come from my approach to shooting,” said Arendz, thanks to a recent coaching change. “My new (shooting) coach has really brought my shooting back to the level that it once was. I was repeating too many bad habits, so the key was to rebuild the shooting from the ground up. Today, I proved the shooting is once again back on top.
“Shooting clean at major events is key. I controlled what I could on the range. On the course, I worked on areas where I am stronger and held a consistent pace.”
Arendz finished 25 seconds ahead of the silver-medal winner from France, Benjamin Davlet, who stopped the clock at 31:14.3 after missing two shots on the range (0+0+1+1). Grygorii Vovchynskyi, of the Ukraine, was third with a time of 31:22.8 (0+1+0+1).
With the Paralympic Winter Games just over one year away, Arendz is returning to the elite form that saw him finish top-two in the overall Para-Nordic World Cup standings for three straight year between 2011 and 2013. He opened the Para-Nordic World Cup season this year with four straight medals in biathlon and cross-country ski races.
Competing in just his second year against the world’s top Para-Nordic skiers, Collin Cameron finished in fifth place in the demanding men’s 7.5 sit-ski biathlon competition. The Sudbury, Ont. resident missed just one shot in his second round of shooting to finish with a time of 40:02.0 (0+1+0+0). Derek Zaplotinsky, of Smokey Lake, Alta., placed ninth at 43:05.8 (1+0+3+0).
Germany’s Martin Fleig set the time to beat at 37:31.0 (1+0+0+0) in the men’s sit ski classification.
Meanwhile, Brittany Hudak was the top Canadian woman in the 6-kilometre standing biathlon race. Hudak shot clean while skiing to eighth place with a time of 36:39.2. Vancouver’s Emily Young struggled on the range, missing five targets, dropping her to 10th place at 39:28.2 (0+2+0+3).
Oleksandra Kononova, of the Ukraine, won the division with a time of 31:41.5 (1+0+1+1).