The sun shone golden for Salmon Arm’s Natalie Wilkie on Dec. 5 when she contributed to a four-medal tally for the Canadians at the World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup in Canmore, Alta.
The Canucks successfully defended home snow on a frigid day at Canmore Nordic Centre Provincial Park with Wilkie powering to her second-straight gold medal in the women’s standing division.
“Today was all about keeping the momentum going,” said Wilkie, a three-time Paralympic medallist. “The legs were feeling a bit heavy today, but I know the course really well, and was racing for the top again.”
The 20-year-old dusted the women’s 10-kilometre skate-ski standing field to grasp her third Para World Cup victory and seventh medal in her young career. Wilkie, who joined the national program just four years ago, also has two World Championship medals to her credit.
“I know I’m usually pretty good in a 10-kilometre skate, but I did not expect to be that far ahead of the field. Each lap I just kept gaining a couple of seconds and it seemed everyone dropped off.”
Brittany Hudak of Prince Albert, Sask. was the next best finisher 42.2 seconds back of her friend and teammate. The 28-year-old social worker clocked a silver medal-winning time of 28:53.1 after completing her four spins around the 2.5-kilometre loop.
“It is so exciting for us (to finish one and two). It was nice to see Natalie have the podium today, to be getting splits off her and being in the running,” said Hudak following her 11th career podium.
The Canadian duo tied for the gold in Saturday’s season opening short distance race.
Emily Young, of Kelowna was sixth in the women’s standing race with a time of 31:02.8
Canadian Brian McKeever credited brilliant guiding by Graham Nishikawa and their support team for edging out Russia’s Stanislav Chokhlaev and his guide, Oleg Kolodiichuk, by 1.4 seconds to remain unbeaten in the opening Para World Cup weekend.
“Today was good. Nish was super good. It was incredibly hard guiding today because of the wind, and he was incredibly astute knowing when I needed guiding the most and when he could peel off,” said McKeever. “The techs did a fantastic job with the skis. They were really fast. That is part of the home course advantage here. We know the snow a little better. Our techs test here all of the time. When you look at a margin of victory of 1.6 seconds, it is the little things that make the difference, so all of those things together is teamwork that made the difference today, otherwise we wouldn’t have won.”
After a one-day training break, the World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup were resuming Dec. 7 in Canmore with the classic-ski sprint races.
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