VUOKATTI, Finland — Mark Arendz and Brian McKeever, Canada’s flag bearers at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, won gold and silver medals Wednesday at the IPC Nordic World Cup season opener.
The 28-year-old Arendz, who won a record six medals in PyeongChang before carrying the Canadian flag in the Closing Ceremony, took gold in the men’s 10 kilometre cross-country standing event in 27 minutes and 02.4 seconds.
Despite all his incredible international success, this is his first World Cup win in cross-country.
“This was a fantastic way to kick off the new season,’’ said Arendz, who lost his left arm above the elbow in a farming accident at age seven. ‘’I’ve had some historical moments here in Vuokatti. I competed in my first World Cup race here, had my first World Cup biathlon victory here and now my first cross-country ski victory.”
Arendz entered his first race with plenty of confidence.
“I’ve felt all year that I have been trending in the right direction,’’ he said. ‘’In the summer I felt so strong – especially in my classic and that has pushed me to strive for more. I’ve been working to refine the small details to continuously improve my classic-skiing and I believed that showed today.”
Japan’s Taiki Kawayoke was in 27:14.4. Ukraine’s GrygoriiVovchynskyi was third in 27:47.8.
In the men’s 10 kilometre visually impaired category, McKeever, Canada’s most decorated Winter Paralympian, had his hands full.
Racing without his guide Graham Nishikawa, who was sidelined with an injury, the 39-year-old McKeever was bumped off the top step of the podium by Sweden’s Sebastian Modin.
“I just didn’t have anything today,” said McKeever, who has a loss of central vision due to Stargardt disease. “But even if I was fast today, I wouldn’t have beaten him. Sebastian was impressive.”
McKeever clocked 27:35.1 while Modin prevailed in 26:05.7.
“I tried to settle into a pace, but I knew the way it was going after I was a lap in that it was over. It was going down in a hurry. It was a bit frustrating, but there is no reason to panic. Tomorrow is another day, and we will see how the skating is.”
Ukraine’s Iaroslav Reshetynskyi skied to a bronze in 29:08.2.
In the women’s 7.5 kilometre standing race, Natalie Wilkie, of Salmon Arm, B.C., was fifth, while Vancouver’s Emily Young was eighth at 25:52.3, and Brittany Hudak, of Prince Albert, Sask., 10th.
Collin Cameron, of Sudbury, Ont., was seventh in the men’s 7.5 kilometre sit-ski race, with Derek Zaplotinsky of Smokey Lake, Alta., eighth.
The IPC World Cup continues on Thursday in Finland with the short distance cross-country ski race.