Earlier this week, Mark Arendz wanted to come out of his first biathlon race of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games with something around his neck and got the silver medal.
On Tuesday, he went for the win.
Arendz put it all on the line in a 12.5-kilometre slog through deep, soft snow at the Alpensia Biathlon Cetnre in PyeongChang where he ended up with the bronze medal in a thrilling middle-distance biathlon scrap that saw three of the world’s best exchanging jabs until the finish line.
At the sound of the final bell, the 28-year-old earned the bronze medal with a time of 35:54.7.
“I knew there were some tired guys, so I went for it from the start and tried to put some pressure on,” said the Hartsville, P.E.I. resident, who was hunting down the first Paralympic title of his career after shooting clean in first three rounds at the range.
“I decided in that last bout (of shooting) to go for it all, throw it down, and go for the win. Unfortunately, I had the one miss and it made it a tight and interesting race.”
A quick trigger on the rifle sent the lanky Canuck for one trip around the 150-metre penalty loop, ending his golden hopes on a windy and warm day.
“It was a really tough battle all day. I handed it to them early and had a choice: to go for gold or settle for the podium. I went for the win and had that one miss that cost me today,” said Arendz.
Gassed heading out of the stadium for one more major climb, Arendz relinquished his lead with two kilometres remaining in the race.
“I ran out of energy at the end,” added Arendz. “I am really happy with my race and it is another medal for Canada. I know everything is going well. I just need that last little tweak to finally win one.”
Benjamin Daviet and Ihor Reptyukh were left to decide the gold.
Deadlocked at the 11.4 kilometre mark, Daviet of France, finished on top when the dust finally settled with a time of 35:25.3 (0+0+0+1). Ukraine’s Reptyukh topped Arendz for the silver medal with a time of 35:31.8 (0+0+1+0).
Arendz’s career Paralympic medal total now sits at four. With four races still remaining, he has replicated his performance exactly from the Sochi Games. He also grabbed the silver earlier in Pyeongchang in the 7.5 km event.
Meanwhile, the women’s standing classification, which included Canada’s Brittany Hudak, hit the start line Tuesday afternoon.
The two-time Paralympian from Prince Albert, Sask. dug deep to get around the 10-kilometre course in a fifth-place time of 39:42.0.
“The first lap I felt good. The skis were running well in these conditions, but then it just got slower as we went on,” said Hudak. “The flat sections you really try put power to glide the ski but your weight is sinking you into the snow. It got harder to get some glide and as my legs got more tired I didn’t feel like I was moving fast.”
Hudak kept her composure and focused on clean shooting in her four trips to the range. She missed just one shot in her final bout.
“I tried to keep calm in the range and take my time. The wind today was gusting, so I took a bit longer on my setup than I usually would and tried to be consistent. For the most part it worked well until that last lap, and that last bout. Overall it was an okay race.”
Neutral Paralympic Athletes finished one-two in the women’s standing. Ekaterina Rumyantseva set the time to beat at 34:10.0 (0+1+0+0). Anna Milenina was second at 35:30.0 (1+0+1+0). Ukraine’s Liudmyla Liashenko rounded out the women’s podium with a time of 36:23.6 (0+2+0+0).
Derek Zaplotinsky, of Smokey Lake, Alta., placed 12th in the men’s 12.5-kilometre sit-ski race with a time of 53:55.4 (2+1+1+1).