Mark Arendz skied to the 10th World Para-Nordic Ski Championship podium of his career after winning the silver medal in the 10-kilometre cross-country skate-ski race on Sunday.
Arendz, of Springton, P.E.I., battled through the chilly, hard packed conditions in Prince George, B.C., to post a second-place time of 27:52.5 in front of the passionate Canadian Nordic fans.
“It was awesome today. After yesterday, I was feeling like it was coming, but wasn’t quite there,” said the 28-year-old Arendz, who also won a silver in Saturday’s biathlon opener.
“Today I started to get it on the last two laps. I knew it was going to be close so every little second and movement was going to be important. It was great to be able to pull it off in the last lap and get second.”
Arendz was fourth in the middle-distance cross-country ski race at the 2015 World Championships, third in 2017 and now second.
“I think the experience is key for me. I have been working a lot on my cross-country skiing. I have been improving and gaining a lot of confidence each year,” said Arendz.
Confident and steady, the eight-time Paralympic medallist scrapped his way from fourth in the first 2.5 kilometres Sunday into podium position midway through the race. He finally climbed into the silver medal position on the penultimate lap and never looked back.
“I was uncertain how much I had left after yesterday, but I started hard to see where I could end up,” said Arendz, who credited advice from coach Robin McKeever on the course for boosting him to his second-straight silver.
“Robin was telling me that I was gaining on the uphills and losing time on the downhills, so I tried to change that up and push a little more on those downhills – just trying to get a good flow for the course,” added Arendz.
The top Canuck finished behind Benjamin Daviet, of France, who clocked a golden time of 25:27.1. Grygorii Vovchynskyi, of the Ukraine, was third at 26:54.7.
Kyle Barber, of Lively, Ont., placed 11th at 33:51.8.
The reigning Paralympic women’s champion in the middle-distance 7.5-kilometre cross-country ski race, Natalie Wilkie of Salmon Arm, B.C., finished just off the podium in fourth place.
One of the youngest athletes in the field at just 18 years old, the three-time Paralympic medallist battled through the tail end of a cold to clock a time of 24:22.3.
“I’m still recovering from my cold, so I am not at my best but tried to give it all I had today. I hope to just keep getting better throughout the week,” said Wilkie, who won the 2018 Paralympic race in the classic-ski format. “It is awesome to compete at World Championships on home snow and have so many Canadians cheering us on today.”
Norway’s Vilde Nilsen set the time to beat at 22:14.6. The Norwegian was joined on the podium by two athletes from the Ukraine. Liudmyla Liashenko finished 10.3 seconds behind the golden pace at 22:24.5. Oleksandra Kononova topped Wilkie for the bronze with a time of 22:55.3.
Wilkie’s Canadian teammates, Brittany Hudak and Emily Young, skied to seventh and eighth place respectively. Hudak (Prince Albert, Sask.) finished with a time of 25:05.9. Young (North Vancouver) stopped the clock at 25:45.1.
Meanwhile, Canada’s Derek Zaplotinsky had a solid showing in the men’s 7.5-kilometre sit-skiing event. The Smokey Lake, Alta. resident powered his way to a fifth-place finish with a time of 23:19.4.
Germany’s Martin Fleig won the classification with a time of 22:55.8.
Ethan Hess, of Pemberton, B.C., was 15th at 28:23.8. The oldest competitor in the World Championship field at 53, Yves Bourque of Bécancour, Que., placed 16th (29:25.7).
Canadian teenager, Jesse Bachinsky, of Kenora, Ont., and his guide from Victoria, Simon Lamarche, placed 15th in the men’s 10-kilometre visually impaired category with a time of 32:15.1.