FINSTERAU, Ger.—Canada’s Para-Nordic Team skied into the historic books after winning a bronze medal for the first time ever at the World Championships in Finsterau, Germany on Wednesday.
Led by the legendary Brian McKeever (Canmore, Alta.) and his guide Graham Nishikawa (Whitehorse), the high-powered Canadian squad also included Emily Young (Vancouver) and Mark Arendz (Hartsville, P.E.I.).
The Canadian contingent combined to post a time of 24:53.4 in the unique relay format that is open to a combination of men or women teams. Each athlete skis at least one 2.5 kilometre leg. Athletes are given per centatges based on their disability classification.
“It is pretty awesome to have such a great result today with the boys, and finally snag my first World Championship medal,” said Young, who was making just her third ever relay start while competing in just her second World Championships. “The race was a rough one. The weather is getting warmer, and the snow softer, which is making it more tiring for sure.”
Young, a former wrestler who suffered an injury to her right arm during a training camp in 2009, was the lone woman out of the top-four teams to compete.
“Being one of the only girls out there, it was tough to ski against the men’s field but I gave my best effort, and that was all I could do. I just had to remember to ski my race, and know that I would likely fall behind a bit. I skied the fastest so far on this course,” said Young. “It was a very exciting race and I am very proud of the team.”
France captured the gold medal with a time of 23:55.9. Norway was second at 24:19.7.
Brian McKeever and his guide, Graham Nishikawa, made their first appearance at the Para-Nordic World Ski Championships. The high-powered duo skied the opening leg where they handed off to Young in first place. Young tagged Mark Arendz in seventh place. Arendz, who already has already won gold and silver in the biathlon events this week, climbed the Canadians into fourth place before opening the door for McKeever and Nishikawa to make the final charge for the bronze medal.
“The boys did such a great job to close the gap and grab the bronze,” said Young. “This was a deep field. The conditions were so tough, and without our wax techs we wouldn’t have got around the course as fast as we did. We had some of the best skis out there once again today.”
Canada’s previous best Para-Nordic relay finish at a major event came at the 2014 Paralympics when they were fourth in Sochi.