Brian McKeever and Graham Nishikawa bounced back to win the gold medal, while Collin Cameron battled to bronze under marginal conditions in a short distance skate-ski race at the Para-Nordic World Cup in Altenberg, Germany.
A winner of 17 Paralympic medals, the 40-year-old McKeever was looking to rebound after a disappointing sprint race earlier in the week. He did exactly that on Wednesday, dusting the field in a six-kilometre race that saw the top Para-Nordic athletes ski 10 times around a 570-metre slushy loop that had rocks, dirt and grass poking through the snow. The Canadian duo navigated the conditions to perfection while posting a golden time of 14:28.9.
“The boys skied much better today under very marginal conditions,” said Robin McKeever, head coach, Canadian Para-Nordic Team. “Graham did an excellent job of getting them through traffic, so they didn’t have an accident, and the course suited them very well.”
Yury Holub, of Belarus, was the next best finisher, 27.2 seconds behind the Canucks. Holub stopped the clock at 14:56.1 to take the silver. Sweden’s Zebastian Modin backed up his golden sprint race with a bronze medal after crossing the finish line with a time of 15:03.6.
Canada’s Collin Cameron also celebrated his second medal of the week. After sprinting to third place in the sit-ski division earlier in the week, the 31-year-old was back on the bronze-medal step of the podium after a hard-fought effort, skiing the five-kilometre course in a time of 14:41.8.
“I’m definitely a bit surprised today. This is my first podium in a non-sprint cross-country ski race,” said the Sudbury, Ont. Paralympian.
Running out of steam on the eight-lap course, Cameron stuck to his race plan to lock up the final spot on the podium.
“It was a tough loop because there wasn’t really a place to recover, and the 180-degree corner was a tough one,” added Cameron following the seventh podium of his career. “I was pretty flat on the last two laps, so I thought I’d be in fifth or sixth. I definitely have some work to do on the endurance in these short, fast races.”
Russia’s Ivan Golubkov was the top finisher in the sit-skiing category at 13:26.7. Daniel Cnossen, of the United States, topped Cameron for the silver with a time of 14:32.9.
Derek Zaplotinsky, of Smoky Lake, Alta., was eighth at 15:15.0.
Natalie Wilkie, of Salmon Arm, B.C., was the top Canadian woman on the day. Wilkie placed fourth in the women’s eight-kilometre standing race with a time of 16:36.1.
Brittany Hudak, of Prince Albert, Sask., was seventh (16:59.6), while North Vancouver’s Emily Young skied to ninth (17:27.1).
Norway’s Vilde Nilsen won the classification with a time of 15:41.4.
Mark Arendz, of Springton, P.E.I., was eighth in the men’s standing classification after completing the course with a time of 14:31.9.