FINSTERAU, Ger.—Canada’s Para-Nordic Cross-Country Ski Team capped off a dream week at the World Championships by adding a gold and bronze to their medal haul in Finsterau, Germany.
Brian McKeever (Canmore, Alta.) and his guide, Graham Nishikawa (Whithorse), won their second-straight gold medal in the men’s visually impaired middle distance cross-country ski race, while Mark Arendz celebrated a memorable World Championships with the bronze for his first career cross-country ski medal in the men’s standing classification at the premiere Para-Nordic event.
While given a good fight to the finish, the 37-year-old McKeever reins supreme at the World Championships, winning this third medal of the week and second-straight gold. Led by Nishikawa, the 13-time Paralympic medallist captured his 10th World Championship title since 2005 on Sunday.
“We had four races in five days so it was a lot about survival today,” said McKeever, who along with Nishikawa put their skis in the car and ripped 45 minutes down the highway to put a solid effort in a 15- kilometre Europa Cup able-bodied race on Saturday.
“Our performances are showing that things are moving back in the right direction after being sick around Christmas. Graham is in incredible shape right now, and a step above me which is important for us.”
The king of the Para-Nordic cross-country ski world was given all he could handle in the men’s 10-kilometre visually impaired classification where he clocked a golden time of 22:15.1. The Canadian duo were three seconds behind a young athlete from Belarus at the halfway point of the race.
“He started really hard and lost steam later in the race, but we had a really good strategy today on how to attack the hills and where to back off,” said McKeever. “We started off slow, but once we began to accelerate the guys couldn’t catch us. We made sure that we always had something in reserve today. If we had to unleash it on the last lap we could have. We had good track craft and race brains today.”
Thomas Clarion and his guide of Antoine Bollet, of France, finished second with a time of 22:45.6. Yury Holub and D. Budzilovich, of Belarus, held on for third place with a time of 22:48.1.
Meanwhile, Canada’s Mark Arendz had a storybook ending to his World Championships. Having won two golds and one silver in the biathlon events, while also being a part of Canada’s first-ever medal-winning Para-Nordic cross-country ski relay team with McKeever where they won the bronze, the 26-year-old Arendz added another bronze to his name in the men’s 10-kilometre standing cross-country ski race.
The Hartsville, P.E.I. resident posted a third-place time of 23:08.9 to secure his first career World Championship individual cross-country ski medal. He now has eight World Championship podium finishes throughout his 10-year career.
“I went into today’s race not sure what would happen given it was my sixth race in nine days. I started strong and kept it going for as long as I could,” said Arendz following his five-medal haul. “It was a tight race. I threw everything I had left out there.
“I’m skiing very well. The fitness is there and the skis have been fantastic. My first individual cross-country ski medal at Worlds – today’s result is a close second to the two World Championship titles.”
Benjamin Daviet, of France, finished with a time of 21:52.9. Ihor Reptyukh, of the Ukraine was second at 22:22.9.
Other Canadian results included: Derek Zaplotinsky, of Smokey Lake, Alta., placing 12th (21:39.8) and Quebec City’s Sebastien Fortier 13th (21:43.8) in the men’s 7.5-kilometre sit ski race. Vancouver’s Emily Young was seventh at 21:30.5 and Brittany Hudak, of Prince Albert, Sask., 10th in the women’s 7.5-kilometre standing classification.