Collin Cameron sprinted to his second career victory, leading the Canadians to a triple medal day at the IPC World Cup in Finland on Sunday.
The 30-year-old Cameron, who surprised the world with three medals at his Paralympic debut in PyeongChang (two in biathlon, one in the cross-country relay), pumped his arms crossing the finish line after leading the world’s best sit-skiers around the one kilometre lap.
“I didn’t expect to win, but I had high expectations for myself going into this race, said the Sudbury, Ont. resident. “I felt confident I could get a top-three after my qualifying lap. I just felt really good, and my skis were so fast today. The techs really did a great job on my boards and gave me the confidence to go for the win today.”
Cameron’s only other victory came two years ago at the World Cup in PyeongChang where he also won gold in the sprint.
One of the most respected athletes on the IPC World Cup Circuit, the former sledge hockey player nailed his preparation and tactics again around the hard-packed and fast Vuokatti course.
“The difference (I think) has been my approach to the sprint races. I now take the time between heats to go back to the wax room, and stay warm, which has been a key for me. I owe a lot of this victory to everyone on this team. Having them rooting me on today was huge, and I can’t thank them enough for all the positive vibes.”
Cameron topped Taras Rad, of the Ukraine, in the sprint final. Rad settled for the silver medal, while American Daniel Cnossen finished third.
Cameron was part of Canada’s Para Nordic team that celebrated a record-setting 16 medal haul at the PyeongChang Games. Two of his teammates who made a mark in Korea were teenager Natalie Wilkie and legendary Paralympian Brian McKeever. Both Canucks were also back in the medal mix on Sunday.
The youngest athlete at the 2018 Games, 17-year-old Natalie Wilkie, won her first-career medal on the World Cup after claiming the silver in the women’s standing classic-ski race on Sunday.
It has been quite a couple of years for the Salmon Arm, B.C. teen, who lost four fingers on her left hand in a workshop accident in 2016. She was back on the ski trails within weeks of the accident and was on top of the world with a complete set of medals at the PyeongChang Games.
She has now firmly established herself as one of the top Para-Nordic athletes in the world.
Wilkie finished behind Norway’s Vilde Nilsen on Sunday. Liudmyla Liashenko, of the Ukraine, claimed the bronze.
Wilkie’s teammate and mentor, Vancouver’s Emily Young, finished just off the podium fourth.
It wasn’t the colour of medal he set out to achieve, but Brian McKeever completed the podium hat trick for the Canucks with a silver of his own in the men’s visually impaired classification.
The 39-year-old McKeever (Canmore, Alta.) and his guide Graham Nishikawa (Whitehorse) ran out of real estate in their bid to catch top rival from Sweden Zebastian Modin.
It was the second time this week Modin has knocked the 17-time Paralympic medallist off the top step of the podium. McKeever and Nishikawa also won gold in the short distance classic-ski race on Thursday.
Yury Holub, of Belarus, finished third.
Mark Arendz, of Springton, P.E.I., was the only other Canadian to make it into the sprint finals. The 28-year-old finished just shy of the podium in fourth place in a deep men’s standing classification.
The category was won by Poland’s Witold Skupien.
The IPC World Cup continues on Tuesday and Wednesday in Finland with the final two biathlon events before the holiday