Canada’s Para Nordic Squad Celebrates Triple Medal Day in Finland
Cross Country Canada – Collin Cameron wins gold, Natalie Wilkie and Brian McKeever silver, Emily Nishikawa matches career best finish in 23rd on World Cup
VUOKATTI, Fin.—Collin Cameron sprinted to his second career victory, leading the Canadians to a triple medal day at the IPC World Cup in Finland on Sunday.
The 30-year-old Cameron, who surprised the world with three medals at his Paralympic debut in PyeongChang (two in biathlon, one in the cross-country relay), pumped his arms crossing the finish line after leading the world’s best sit-skiers around the one kilometre lap.
“I didn’t expect to win, but I had high expectations for myself going into this race, said the Sudbury, Ont. resident. “I felt confident I could get a top-three after my qualifying lap. I just felt really good, and my skis were so fast today. The techs really did a great job on my boards and gave me the confidence to go for the win today.”
Cameron’s only other victory came two years ago at the World Cup in PyeongChang where he also won gold in the sprint.
One of the most respected athletes on the IPC World Cup Circuit, the former sledge hockey player nailed his preparation and tactics again around the hard-packed and fast Vuokatti course.
“The difference (I think) has been my approach to the sprint races. I now take the time between heats to go back to the wax room, and stay warm, which has been a key for me. I owe a lot of this victory to everyone on this team. Having them rooting me on today was huge, and I can’t thank them enough for all the positive vibes.”
Cameron topped Taras Rad, of the Ukraine, in the sprint final. Rad settled for the silver medal, while American Daniel Cnossen finished third.
Cameron was part of Canada’s Para Nordic team that celebrated a record-setting 16 medal haul at the PyeongChang Games. Two of his teammates who made a mark in Korea were teenager Natalie Wilkie and legendary Paralympian Brian McKeever. Both Canucks were also back in the medal mix on Sunday.
The youngest athlete at the 2018 Games, 17-year-old Natalie Wilkie, won her first-career medal on the World Cup after claiming the silver in the women’s standing classic-ski race on Sunday.
It has been quite a couple of years for the Salmon Arm, B.C. teen, who lost four fingers on her left hand in a workshop accident in 2016. She was back on the ski trails within weeks of the accident and was on top of the world with a complete set of medals at the PyeongChang Games.
She has now firmly established herself as one of the top Para-Nordic athletes in the world.
Wilkie finished behind Norway’s Vilde Nilsen on Sunday. Liudmyla Liashenko, of the Ukraine, claimed the bronze.
Wilkie’s teammate and mentor, Vancouver’s Emily Young, finished just off the podium fourth.
It wasn’t the colour of medal he set out to achieve, but Brian McKeever completed the podium hat trick for the Canucks with a silver of his own in the men’s visually impaired classification.
The 39-year-old McKeever (Canmore, Alta.) and his guide Graham Nishikawa (Whitehorse) ran out of real estate in their bid to catch top rival from Sweden Zebastian Modin.
It was the second time this week Modin has knocked the 17-time Paralympic medallist off the top step of the podium. McKeever and Nishikawa also won gold in the short distance classic-ski race on Thursday.
Yury Holub, of Belarus, finished third.
Mark Arendz, of Springton, P.E.I., was the only other Canadian to make it into the sprint finals. The 28-year-old finished just shy of the podium in fourth place in a deep men’s standing classification.
The category was won by Poland’s Witold Skupien.
The IPC World Cup continues on Tuesday and Wednesday in Finland with the final two biathlon events before the holiday
COMPLETE RESULTS: https://www.paralympic.org/nordic-skiing/calendar-results
Emily Nishikawa Matches Career Best World Cup Finish in 23rd
Emily Nishikawa enjoyed the best day of her World Cup career with a 23rd place finish in the 10-kilometre individual start classic-ski race in Davos, Switzerland.
Taking advantage of glorious conditions in Davos, the 29-year-old Whitehorse skier hammered the pace to post a time of 27:54.5.
“It feels amazing to have one of the best performances of my career today. I am thrilled,” said Nishikawa. “I have been outside of the top-30 for a long time, and to breakthrough today felt great.”
The two-time Olympian was in 11th place at the midway point of the race but started falling off the pace in the final lap ending up in 23rd in a tight race that saw her just seven seconds out of the top-15. She also had a 23rd place finish in 2015 in Lahti, Finland in the same event.
“The course here is one of my favourites. It is very gradual terrain working up to the top, then gradual back down to the stadium,” added Nishikawa. “It is a very hard course with so many working sections. I was confident about this race. I have raced well here before, and I have been feeling good these last few weeks. I am really happy to have everything come together and have a great day.”
Norway’s Therese Johaug led wire-to-wire, setting a golden pace of 26:06.9. Ingvild Flugstad Oestberg, also of Norway, was second at 26:19.0, while Finland’s Krista Parmakoski skied to the bronze medal with a time of 26:26.1
Cendrine Browne, of Saint-Jérôme, Que., was 44th (28:35.7).
Alex Harvey, of St-Ferréol-les-Neiges, Que., was the top Canadian in the men’s 15-kilometre classic-ski race. The 30-year-old Harvey started slow out of the gate before making his way into 26th spot where he finished with a time of 36:53.4.
Russia’s Evgeniy Belov won the final World Cup race before the holiday break with a time of 35:52.5. Maurice Manificat, of France, claimed the silver at 35:53.4. Norway’s Martin Johnsrud Sundby was third at 35:57.0.
Toronto’s Len Valjas finished 62nd (38:05.7). Andy Shields, of Thunder Bay, Ont., was 76th (38:44.5).
The world’s best Nordic athletes will be back on the start line December 29 for the first stage of the prestigious Tour de Ski.
Complete Women’s Results: http://medias2.fis-ski.com/pdf/2019/CC/4153/2019CC4153RL.pdf
Complete Men’s Results: http://medias2.fis-ski.com/pdf/2019/CC/4154/2019CC4154RL.pdf
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