PYEONGCHANG, Kor.—Canada’s Chris Klebl climbed out of a hospital bed 10 weeks ago and onto to the Para-Nordic podium Saturday in his first race in close to a year.
Hoping this is a preview of what’s to come in one-year’s time on the Paralympic trails in PyehongChang, Korea, the Canmore, Alta. resident battled to a memorable bronze-medal performance at the World Para-Nordic World Cup men’s 15-kilometre cross-country sit-ski race.
The 45-year-old Klebl clocked a third-place time of 49:15.3.
“The last month has been an experiment, and today’s plan was simply to see if the various gambles employed in getting back to World Cup form might work,” said Klebl. “Racing well here this week was a major focus of my season, but my medical challenges derailed a variety of plans, so skiing well today feels like a giant bonus in a season that did not unfold as planned.”
Korea’s Eui Hyun Sin won the men’s sit-ski race with a time of 45:41.2. Andrew Soule, of the United States, skied to the silver medal position on the podium after stopping the clock at 46:09.6.
A three-time Paralympian, who captured the world’s attention after winning 10-kilometre Paralympic race in Sochi, Klebl first made history as a member of the Canadian Team in 2011 by winning the World Championships in the same sit-ski distance race. Klebl had another silver-medal victory at last year’s World Cup Finals before his career took another huge turn last spring.
“I was in a hospital bed on bed rest for six weeks recovering from surgery related to a skin and bone infection until January 31,” said Klebl, who grew up in Austria where he became paralyzed from the waist down after a snowboard accident in 1995. “Training had gone well, but I had been dealing with an infected wound since the beginning of August. While I did lift weights in my hospital bed, I only got on snow on February 1, and had not done any ski specific training since the end of November.”
Collin Cameron, of Sudbury, Ont., had a stellar finish. Competing in just his second year on the elite Para-Nordic circuit, Cameron placed sixth at 47:40.2. Quebec City’s Sebastien Fortier was 12th (50:53.9), while Derek Zaplotinsky, of Smokey Lake, Alta., was 13th (51:33.9), and Ethan Hess, a teenager from Pemberton, B.C., was 20th (54:15.1).
Mark Arendz Wins Bronze in Men’s Standing Classification
Canada’s Mark Arendz will certainly be one to watch when the world’s attention focuses on PyeongChang in one year’s time for the Paralympic Games.
The Hartsville, P.E.I. resident fought through the sunny and warm conditions to claim his second-straight podium in as many days after winning the bronze medal in the men’s standing 20-kilometre cross-country ski skate race with time of 1:00:02.5.
“It was a tough day on the course, but the wax technicians provided some amazing skis that helped a lot,” said Arendz, a biathlon specialist who won the silver in yesterday’s sprint race. “It was soft and deep slush, but I felt I kept a very strong, solid pace throughout the race. It was tough to finish so close to second, but I have to be pleased with the effort I put in today. It was a great result for me.”
Benjamin Daviet, of France, won his second-straight race with a time of 56:35.8. Ihor Reptyukh, of the Ukraine, was second at 59:58.9.
The two-time Paralympic medallist has been on a tear over the last month. The 26 year old racked up five medals including two gold, one silver and two bronze, at the recent World Championships, and is now regularly reaching the podium in cross-country ski races as well.
“Going into this season I wanted to put a little more effort into the cross country races, especially classic but the skate races have gone very well for me so far,” said Arendz. “Adding in the cross country races does make for a tough competition schedule, but so far I have been recovering well while doing a lot of racing.”
Meanwhile, Vancouver’s Emily Young had a solid outing in the women’s 15-kilometre standing race after clocking a fifth-place time of 1:01:02.4.
The Ukraine grabbed the top-two spots on the podium. Oleksandra Kononova won the gold with a time of 55:29.2, while Iullia Batenkova was second at 56:53.4. Japan’s Momoko Dekijima rounded out the podium in third with a time of 57:34.4.
Ottawa’s Caroline Bisson was eighth at 1:07:46.9.