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Cross Country Canada – VUOKATTI, Fin.—Canada’s para-nordic athletes broke the goose egg in the medal count at the IPC World Cup Finals, winning gold and silver in cross-country skiing classic distance races on Saturday in Vuokatti, Finland.

Competing in his first para-nordic race of the season, 10-time Paralympic gold medallist  Brian McKeever was back on top of the IPC World Cup podium. The 36-year-old McKeever, of Canmore, Alta., and his guide Graham Nishikawa, of Whitehorse, smashed the field with a time of 1:20:43.0 in the men’s 20-kilometre visually impaired category.

“It went really well today on a very typical marathon type course,” said McKeever, who added the Canadian duo double-poled the entire way. “This allowed us to open an early gap, and not give any free rides. Graham and I were trading turns on the front to keep the pace up. The techs gave us some fast skis today and which allowed us to keep the pace all day.”

Russia’s Alexsander Artemov and his guide, Ilya Cherepanov were second at 1:24:40.2. Thomas Clarion and Antoine Bollet, of France, finished well back of the leading pace in third at 1:25:00.5.

The Canadian trail to the podium continued in the men’s 20-kilometre sit-skiing classification. Chris Klebl, also of Canmore, celebrated his first IPC World Cup medal of the year after crossing the finish line in second spot.

Klebl, who won the 10-kiilometre Paralympic sit-ski race in 2014, was relentless in his pursuit of the podium to finish with a time of 53:42.3, and win his first distance race of the season.

“Training has gone well since May which has included a few new experiments so I’m glad I was able to put things together when it mattered today,” said Klebl, who was ill for the only other distance race on the calendar earlier this year in Germany. “I had put in a solid block of training in Switzerland leading into this race. It has been a long year with few races. We had great skis and I’m happy to be able to deliver today.”

Maksym Yarovyi, of the Ukraine, posted a golden time of 52:31.0. Korea’s Eui Hyun Sin rounded out the sit-ski podium in third with a time of 53:43.0.

Brittany Hudak, of Prince Albert, Sask., was the lone Canadian entered in the women’s standing classification. The 22 year old had a solid race to finish fifth with a time of 1:46:10.9.

Hudak’s top rival, Ukraine’s Oleksandra Kononova clocked a winning time of 1:39:09.6.

Mark Arendz, of Hartsville, P.E.I., was the only other Canadian to suit up on Saturday. Arendz, 26, finished eighth in the men’s standing division with a time of 1:26:31.2.

Russia’s Vladislav Lekomtsev captured the gold medal with a time of 1:17:52.8.

The IPC World Cup Finals wrap up on Sunday with the cross-country skiing middle distance races.

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Chris Dornan

Media and Public Relations

Cross Country Canada

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