Canada’s Para-Nordic squad sprinted to the silver and bronze-medal steps of the podium at the World Cup in Dresden, Germany on Monday.
The leader of the Para-Nordic Team, Brian McKeever and his guide Graham Nishikawa, sprinted to the silver medal in the men’s visually impaired category. Women’s standing teen, Natalie Wilkie, grabbed her second sprint podium of the season with the bronze medal.
“This was a good day for the team,” said Robin McKeever, head coach, Canada’s Para-Nordic Team. “It was a good team effort, and a really solid day for the women.”
McKeever, a winner of 17 Paralympic medals, came up short in his quest to take down his top rival from Sweden, Zebastian Modin. The 40-year-old from Canmore, Alta., was stuck in the second place position all day. He qualified second on the one-kilometre track that meandered along the downtown streets of the old German city. He was also second in his semifinal heat before crossing the line behind Sweden’s Modin in the final.
“We fought hard, but didn’t ski well enough to win,” said McKeever. “We didn’t make up enough time where we needed to and then it was over. Some days just aren’t great. Modin is fast, and a really good sprinter.”
Germany’s Nico Messinger was third in the men’s visually impaired category.
The trail to the podium for the Canucks continued in the women’s standing skate-ski sprint race. One week removed from her 18th birthday, Natalie Wilkie enjoyed a solid day on the unique city sprint course.
Wilkie, of Salmon Arm, B.C., posted the third-fastest qualification time in her two trips around the 500-metre layout. She punched her ticket into the final with the top three athletes in each heat after taking complete control of her semifinal round where she was first to cross the line.
Starting at the back of the pack based on her classification, the three-time Paralympic medallist ran out of real estate in a hard-fought final against the top athletes in the world where she crossed the line in third place.
“It was a great day. Brittany, Emily and I all made it into the semis so I found we were bouncing off of each other’s energy all day,” said Wilkie. “Emily and I were working well together in the final as well. I just knew the course so well here. I skied it a lot and I felt good all day.”
Russia’s Ekaterina Rumyantseva won the women’s standing race. Norway’s Vilde Nilsen was second.
North Vancouver’s Emily Young had a strong outing in her first World Cup race of the season. The Paralympic medalist qualified in fifth place before locking up a spot in the final after crossing the line second in her opening round. Young couldn’t keep up with the podium pace, and finished fifth when the day was done.
Brittany Hudak, of Prince Albert, Sask., also qualified for the heats, but was forced to the sidelines after crossing the line fourth in the semis.