Salmon Arm’s Natalie Wilkie wrapped up her week in a big way in Oestersund, Sweden.
Wilkie earned her third World Championship title of the week on Jan. 27 in the women’s standing event.
“It has definitely been a fun week as a team. The medals are obviously great, but just to see the entire team perform so well is awesome to see,” said Wilkie, the youngest member of the squad, in a Nordiq Canada media release. “Derek (Zaplotinsky) is having some of his best-ever results and Christina (Picton) winning her first World Championship medal today is exciting. It is super cool to have so much success together. We are going to enjoy this by all of us heading out for burgers tonight as a team.”
Wilkie has earned her right to a burger or two – maybe even a milkshake – after a dominant week that has seen the soft-spoken Canuck rattle off three gold medal performances to go along with a second-place finish on some of the most difficult courses on the Para Nordic circuit.
The emerging nordic star kicked off the triumphant week by celebrating her 22nd birthday with her first World Championship biathlon title in the short distance race. She topped that performance with a near-perfect race on Friday.
The two-time Paralympian was flawless on the range, knocking down all 20 shots, and lightning quick on the boards to clock a time of 38:11.5.
“It is definitely cool to win my second biathlon title here,” said Wilkie. “At the start of the race I was a bit frustrated because my shooting times were quite slow, and it was showing on the splits, but I know the race isn’t won in the first shooting.”
The 12.5-kilometre individual race puts a premium on shooting, with one-minute penalties added to the total time for every missed shot.
Patient and steady, Wilkie was perfect in each of her first three stops at the range, leaving the last round of shooting and her fifth spin around the hilly and technical 2.4-kilometre loop to determine the medals.
“It came down to the last lap. The Ukraine athletes both missed so taking a bit longer in the range today really paid off for me,” said Wilkie. “I shot clean again and went as fast as I could and was able to open up a bigger gap.”
Mark Arendz from Hartsville, P.E.I. snagged his second-straight victory Friday, while Christina Picton from Fonthill, Ont. claimed her first podium in the women’s sit-ski race at the premier event in a non-Olympic year, winning the bronze.
Ukraine’s Bohdana Konashuk was second and Liudmyla Liashenko, also from Ukraine, was third. Brittany Hudak, of Prince Albert, Sask., missed one shot in her final bout, dropping her to fourth.
Wilkie, who has racked up seven cross-country ski medals at the last two Paralympic Games, has quickly developed into an all-around podium threat each time she hits the line in Para Nordic competitions.
“My biathlon success earlier this year in Finland gave me the belief that I can do it. I just have to stay focused on the shooting, stay patient, and it is possible,” said Wilkie, who has been thriving on the punishing Swedish course.
“If feels hillier here with every single race. It is a really fun course, lots of hills, twisty downhills and super fun corners which is one of my strengths. But I think what the best is this is the same course able bodied skiers race on so it makes us feel so legit. Our entire team is so fit. We all put a lot of work in to prepare for this, and that hard work is showing this week.”
– Submitted by Nordiq Canada
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter
and subscribe to our daily newsletter.