Para-Nordic skiing world cup kicks off at CNC
Thursday, Dec 07, 2017 06:00 am
Canmore skier Brittany Hudak knows the crowd will be loud at the 2017 Para-Nordic World Cup Skiing races, which run Dec. 8-18 at the Canmore Nordic Centre. Much of the noise will come from her mother, Rhonda.
“My parents haven’t been to many of my races. My mom is quite loud, so I am sure I will hear her,” Hudak said. “When I race, it’s easy to tune her out. After the races may be another story.”
Hudak will be a Canadian favourite over the 10-day event, which has attracted one of the biggest fields in Para-Nordic skiing history. About 177 of the world’s best Para-Nordic ski athletes will compete in sit-ski, standing and visually impaired races, beginning with cross-country ski races Dec. 9-10 at the Nordic Centre. The races are free to watch, and the best chance to see Para-Nordic athletes up close before they head to the Paralympics.
The races will also feature a large contingent of athletes from Russia who are trying to qualify for the Paralympics. In Canmore, they will race as neutrals, following sanctions by the IPC imposed last year.
Hudak has two top-five finishes to her name at world championships, and finished fourth in the women’s standing cross-country ski race at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. She shocked herself with that result, and has come back even stronger this season.
“After Sochi, it’s four years, but after you set your goals, it goes by a little too fast,” Hudak said.
She was born missing part of her left arm and grew up in an active household. Her mother was a rodeo champion and encouraged her to try track and field, basketball, badminton and other sports. But she discovered cross-country skiing after a chance meeting with Canadian para-ski legend Colette Bourgonje at a Canadian Tire where Hudak was working at the time.
In Canmore, she’s excited to share her sport with friends and family.
“I hope we get a nice crowd. Having familiar faces in the crowd will be nice,” Hudak said. “People should expect to see diversity, and different ability levels. The first time I saw sit-skiers take corners on one ski – it’s pure entertainment. I hope people take the time to watch, and be inspired by it.”
Sit-skier Collin Cameron will be another athlete to watch in Canmore. Cameron won gold in the sprint race last year in PyeongChang, and is on the hunt for more. Growing up in Muskoka, Ont., Cameron is still new to the sport, having transitioned from recreational sledge hockey to cross-country skiing. He still works full time for a transportation company in Sudbury, but has ramped up training this year.
“I’ve learned tonnes,” Cameron said. “I learned so much from world championship races in Germany. That led to my first podium in the South Korea sprint race.”
Cameron was born with arthrogryposis, a congenital neuromuscular disorder which causes muscle shortening. He grew up playing soccer, badminton and road hockey, and grew more competitive after moving to Sudbury.
He’s targeting the sprint podium again, and wants to rank in the top 10 for distance races.
Mark Arendz will also race in Canmore. A heavy favourite in PyeongChang, Arendz has recently entered several able-bodied ski and biathlon races at the NorAm and Alberta Cup level, and performed admirably. That’s no surprise, considering the27-year-old won five medals at the 2017 World Para Nordic Skiing championships, and is preparing for his third Paralympic games.
“The races have been good, overall. I’m happy with the shape I’m in. The races have had learning experience, and shown things to clean up for this world cup and PyeongChang,” Arendz said.
Arendz lost his left arm in a farming accident at the age of seven, as he attempted to load corn into an auger. He soon grew interested in biathlon after watching the 2002 winter Olympics.
Racing at home is a treat for Arendz as he loves to show off his training ground to the rest of his competitors, and he can’t wait to see friends and family on course.
Competition begins with three days of cross-country ski racing, running from Dec. 9-12. Para biathlon races then begin on Dec. 14, and continue until Dec. 17.
For more details, visit www.albertaworldcup.com.
A VIP celebrity event is also open to the public Friday (Dec. 9) at 3:30 p.m., where top local athletes and VIPs will race one another in sit-ski, standing and visually impaired races.