Not an ordinary post-Paralympic Games season for Canada’s Para nordic skiers

The 2019 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships are scheduled for February 15-24 in Prince George, B.C.

CANMORE, Alta. – Mark Arendz admits that with a world championship on home soil on the horizon he is more focused than usual for a post-Paralympic Games season.

‘’The first year of a Paralympic cycle is at times tough, but having a clear focus, like a world championships at home has made this year a lot easier,’’ said the 28-year-old from Hartsville, PEI. He won a Canadian team record six medals in Para nordic skiing at the Winter Games this past March in PyeongChang.

Now his sights are set on the 2019 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships scheduled for February 15-24 in Prince George, B.C.

‘’I look forward to maintaining the momentum from the Games and moving forward to the worlds,’’ Arendz continued. ‘’There is an overall excitement amongst the Canadian team for this year’s worlds because they are at home for the first time.’’

The World Cup season opens next week (December 12-19) in Vuokatti, Finland. The other stops are January 12-19 in Ostersund, Sweden (which Canada will skip to prepare for worlds) and March 12-17 in Sapporo, Japan.

Brian McKeever, who became Canada’s most successful winter Paralympian ever in PyeongChang with four medals to bring his career total to 17, returns with his guides Russell Kennedy and Graham Nishikawa.

''Brian has looked solid this season over in Europe in able-bodied training races and will be at the season opening Para nordic World Cup in Finland,’’ said McKeever’s brother and Canadian national Para nordic team head coach Robin McKeever. ‘’Both his guides were also overseas so they’ve been able to work and train together.’’

Other medallists from PyeongChang on the national team are Collin Cameron, Emily Young, Brittany Hudak, and Natalie Wilkie. Wilkie, from Salmon Arm, B.C., was the youngest member of Canada’s Paralympic team at age 17 and two months. She won a gold, silver and bronze at the Games.

Wilkie earned her medals in cross-country skiing and will be making her biathlon debut at the first World Cup next week.

‘’I’ve been definitely working on my shooting a lot,’’ said Wilkie, who turns 18 next month. ‘’I shot for the first time last year so I’m still practicing trying to get all the breathing techniques right and lining up properly for each shot. I’m kinda nervous about racing it, it’s very different.’’

Others to watch in Para nordic competition include Derek Zaplotinsky and Sebastien Fortier. Cindy Ouellet, who made her Winter Games debut in Pyeongchang this season, is currently recovering from a wrist injury.