Paralympic and Olympic veterans lead new generation of cross-country skiers
Nordiq Canada – CANMORE, Alta.—A young group of Paralympic and Olympic veterans will carry the torch for a new generation of cross-country skiers who will make up the National Ski Team in 2019-2020, Nordiq Canada announced on Saturday.
Poised to make their mark on the international stage at all levels of the sport, the determined crop of cross-country skiers will be focused on building towards the 2022 and 2026 Games.
A high-powered group of eight Paralympic medallists, including two guides, will be counted on to contribute to Canada’s medal haul over the next year on the Para Senior Ski Team. Canada’s flag bearers at the 2018 Paralympic Games, Brian McKeever (Canmore, Alta.) and Mark Arendz (Hartsville, P.E.I.) will lead the charge in Para-Nordic racing. They will be joined by a foursome of new stars who have emerged in the sport that includes: Collin Cameron (Sudbury, Ont.); Natalie Wilkie (Salmon Arm, B.C.); Emily Young (Vancouver); and Brittany Hudak (Prince Albert, Sask.).
A three-time Paralympic medallist, Cameron captured his first World Championship title last year. Wilkie, who backed up winning a set of Paralympic medals in 2018 with a silver at last year’s World Championships, will team up with two veterans of the Para Senior Ski Team in Young and Hudak. Both have consistently climbed onto the international podium over the last five years. Derek Zaplotinksy (Smokey Lake, Alta.) will compete on the Para Senior Ski Team for the first time in 2019-20. Zaplotinsky rattled off three, fifth-place finishes at the 2019 World Championships.
Graham Nishikawa (Whitehorse) and Russell Kennedy (Canmore, Alta.) will both continue to share guiding duties for Brian McKeever.
Nordiq Canada also announced five Para-Nordic athletes to its Development and Prospect team including: Jesse Bachinsky (Kenora, Ont.); Kyle Barber (Lively, Ont.); Ethan Hess (Pemberton, B.C.); Cindy Ouellet (Quebec City); and Lyne Marie Bilodeau (Magog, Que.).
“This talented group of Para-nordic skiers are an experienced group of athletes who have two clear goals in mind: win medals and continue developing the next generation of athletes,” said Shane Pearsall, chief executive officer, Nordiq Canada. “Depth is critical to mounting a podium attack, and we have a nice blend of veterans and NextGen athletes driven to put the maple leaf on the international podium.”
Thirteen athletes represent a new beginning for the National Ski Team which will be composed of eight senior development athletes and five junior development skiers. The creation of one National Ski Team will direct more resources and learning opportunities towards the junior level athletes.
Two Olympians from Whitehorse will be counted on to provide leadership to the new-look Senior Ski Team. Emily Nishikawa and Dahria Beatty, who both also represented Canada in PyeongChang, will lead the group of athletes into a new era for the squad.
Russell Kennedy, who competed at the Olympics before helping to guide Brian McKeever at the Paralympic Games in 2018, will also include World Cup races on his schedule while training and competing with the para squad.
Kennedy posted a career-best 12th-place sprint finish on the World Cup last year, while Beatty has a top-15 World Cup sprint finish of her own in her career. A two-time Olympian, Nishikawa had one of her most consistent seasons of her career last year.
The trio will be counted on to lead six other senior development athletes including: Julien Locke (Nelson, B.C.); Katherine Stewart-Jones (Chelsea, Que.); Graham Ritchie (Parry Sound, Ont.); Antoine Cyr (Gatineau, Que.); Sam Hendry (Canmore, Alta.); and Julien Smith (Thunder Bay, Ont.). Remi Drolet (Rossland, B.C.); along with Elizabeth Elliot (Revelstoke, B.C.); Benita Peiffer (Whistler, B.C); Anne-Marie Petitclerc (Mont Saint-Anne, Que.); and Anna Pryce (Calgary) represent the five junior development athletes who will look to gain valuable experience on the national team.
“This group is ready to step up and carry the torch for a new era of cross-country skiers in Canada,” added Pearsall. “They are equally as fierce and determined to deliver medal winning performances as their heroes before them. We are going to work with our sport and funding partners to deliver this dynamic group of athletes the tools they require to succeed on the road to 2022 and beyond.”
The National Ski Team will gather in Canmore for its first of five training camps between June 25 and July 9. Additional training camps for a select group of athletes will be held in Norway and Mt. Tremblant, Que. in August, as well as Thunder Bay, Ont. in September. The entire National Ski Team will reconnect in Canmore October 23 until November 16.
Nordiq Canada is the governing body of para-nordic and cross-country skiing in Canada, which is the nation’s optimal sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually. Its 60,000 members include athletes, coaches, officials and skiers of all ages and abilities. With the support of its valued corporate partners – Haywood Securities Inc., AltaGas, Swix and Lanctôt Sports– along with the Government of Canada, Canadian Olympic Committee, Canadian Paralympic Committee, Own the Podium and B2Ten, Nordiq Canada develops Olympic, Paralympic and world champions. For more information on Nordiq Canada, please visit us at www.nordiqcanada.ca.
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