Salmon Arm’s Paralympic champion Natalie Wilkie helped Canada’s Para-nordic squad to its third-straight double-medal day, earning a silver medal on Saturday at the final Para Nordic World Cup stop in Sapporo, Japan.
Wilkie captured Canada’s sixth medal of the week in Japan, with a finely-tuned performance in the women’s 7.5-kilometre standing race. Wilkie battled up and down the rolling 2.5 kilometre terrain over three laps to post a final time of 21:24.3.
“Natalie skied really well. Her legs were a bit heavy and had a couple of stumbles on a steep climb, but still managed to ski the fastest third lap of all the women,” said Robin McKeever, head coach of the Canadian Para-Nordic Ski Team.
Wilkie closed the gap on Norway’s Vilde Nilsen in the final lap but ran out of real estate to catch her rival, who won the gold medal with a time of 20:41.5.
Wilkie’s teammate Brian McKeever and his guide, Graham Nishikawa, rocketed to the gold medal in the men’s 10-kilometre visually impaired category.
Longtime friends and Paralympic teammates, McKeever, of Canmore, Alta., and Nishikawa, of Whitehorse, put the hurt on the field in the men’s skate-ski race at the Nishioka Stadium, finishing with a time of 24:24.3.
“It was a good day on pretty hot skis,” said the 39-year-old McKeever, a winner of 17 Paralympic medals – 13 of them gold. “The boys in the wax cabin won the race for us today.”
McKeever, who recently celebrated his 20th World Championship title, led wire-to-wire, while following a strong pace set by the 35-year-old Nishikawa.
“We were in control right from the start. Graham set the perfect pace for us today. It was another great team race and nice to get another win,” added McKeever.
The Canadians stopped two athletes from the Ukraine from taking the gold medal spot on the podium. Dmytro Suiarko finished second at 24:56.9, with teammate Iaroslav Reshetynskyi taking the bronze medal with a time of 25:03.8.