From biathlon bribes to english garden cross training: para-nordic full of characters
Thursday, Dec 21, 2017 06:00 am
The 2017 World Para-Nordic Skiing World Cup attracted incredible athletes, but also incredible stories to Canmore. Here are two of our favourites:
Clara Klug, Germany.
Visually impaired silver medallist Clara Klug of Germany had a dramatic 10 days of racing. After a sub-par series of cross-country ski races, Klug found herself on the podium twice in biathlon, qualifying her for a spot at her first Paralympics.
Klug was born nearly blind, and as a B1 visually impaired athlete, has next to no vision. She studied at schools for the blind in Germany, gradually balancing sport and studies. Her impeccable technique allows her to ski like the wind, and she relies on guide Martin Hartl to lead the way.
However, she also relies on him for financial motivation in the shooting range.
“For every missed shot, I have to pay him $10 bucks,” Klug said after her silver medal performance in the individual race Thursday (Dec 14). “So now I have to pay him $20 bucks.”
Klug, 23, followed that up with a bronze medal in the sprint, which left her with a smile on her face, but lighter in the pocket.
“I need to clean up the shooting. I owe him $30 bucks for missed shots. That’s way too expensive for me. I have to get back to my normal conditions and concentrate in the shooting range. I’m not too sure how to do this yet, but we will figure it out.”
Unfortunately, Klug’s luck ran out in the pursuit race. Running in third place, she injured her thumb in a crash to end her day.
“Many thanks to the first responders and doctors on site, who were immediately on the spot,” Klug wrote after the race.
Earning a trip to the Paralympics has been a long-term goal for Klug, who also earned her degree in linguistics and literature at the University of Munich. This is her fifth year in biathlon.
“Four years ago, I was watching others on the live stream and hoping maybe someday I will be starting there. Now I am going and I’m really excited.”
Terry Ahrens, United Kingdom
The Union Jack hasn’t graced the Paralympics since 1998 in Japan, when 27-year-old Terry Ahrens suited up for Great Britain. Twenty years later, he’s trying to do it again.
Ahrens, 47, raced for the U.K. in Canmore and is once again chasing a Paralympic start. He finished 14th in the 7.5 kilometre standing biathlon sprint in 1998, and was 14th again in Canmore in the biathlon sprint, resurrecting the sport legacy.
“It doesn’t get any easier,” Ahrens said after the biathlon race.
Ahrens joined the army at 16, and served as a sergeant in the Queen’s Royal Lancers cavalry regiment. Based in Germany, he fixed tanks and completed tours in Kosovo, Cyprus, Belize and Canada.
At 22, Ahrens was hit by a car while riding his bike. The crash ripped the nerves out of his back and paralyzed his left arm. He woke up three days after the accident with no memory of the incident, and fears he would never walk again.
He re-taught himself how to ski, went to Nagano and served 23 years in the military. When the United Kingdom decided to resuscitate its para-nordic program, they turned to Ahrens.
“I got a phone call asking me to come have a look at the team. They saw me on roller skis and said ‘maybe you should go for the ski again’. I missed it quite a lot. It’s good to be back again,” Ahrens said.
He had no plans for a comeback until the Para-Nordic team came calling. They managed to field three athletes in Canmore.
“I was happily retired, doing me vegetable garden at home until I got the phone call. So I started it all over again today,” Ahrens said. “It’s brilliant to have a team. It’s early for us.”