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McKeever, Wilkie earn back-to-back gold at Canmore Para Nordic world cup

Canadian Para athletes have won five gold medals after day two of the Canmore Para Nordic Skiing World Cup on Sunday (Dec. 5).

CANMORE – Make it back-to-back gold medals for Canada's Brian McKeever and Natalie Wilkie at the Canmore Para Nordic Skiing World Cup.

In Sunday's (Dec. 5) races at the Canmore Nordic Centre, Canada increased its medal count to eight (five gold, one silver, two bronze) after the second day of the Para Nordic skiing world cup kick-off event with Canmore's own McKeever leading the way.

"[The competition] certainly is very hard and that's what we want and a lot of the best skiers in the world showed up," said McKeever. "It's a Paralympic year. People are pretty serious and obviously, we're seeing that races are tight across all the categories and that's going to be a good season ahead."

With guide Graham Nishikawa, the 42-old-year (28:50.2) edged out Russia's Stanislav Chokhlaev (28:51.5) for top spot in the men's 12.5-kilometre visually impaired free technique race.

USA's Jake Adicoff won bronze at a time of 29:02.7.

On the first day of racing, McKeever, a 17-time Paralympic medallist, and Nishikawa won the men's 7.5 km visually impaired race by 6.1 seconds ahead of Russian Oleg Ponomarev.

Wilkie, of Salmon Arm, B.C., claimed a second world cup gold medal in the women's 10 km standing free technique. The 20-year-old Canuck crossed the line at a time of 28:12.6. 

"The snow was pretty fast today," said Wilkie. "I was a little put off by the late start. I like racing in the morning so waiting around all day for a race was a little stressful for me, but once I was out on the snow all those hours and hours of training over the summer kicked in; I just put my head down and went."

Winning silver was Canada's Brittany Hudak (28:53.1) and third was Russia's Ekaterina Rumyantseva (29:03.3).

Canada's Emily Young finished sixth (31:02.8).

One day prior, Wilkie and Hudak tied for first place in the five km standing that had interval starts.

"Yesterday was super special," said Wilkie. "We've been training together all year and we've been neck-and-neck for so long that it almost wasn't surprising that we won gold together, which is just awesome and today ... I was racing against Brittany again. I knew she was a strong skater, she's a great biathlete and I knew that she was going to be pretty tough to beat today, especially considering yesterday we were so close so I'm really happy with today's race."

In the 12.5-km men's standing, the podium was a clean sweep by Russia as Vladislav Lekomtsev, Vitalii Malyshev, and Rushan Minnegulov were one, two, and three.

Canadians Jesse Ehman and Kyle Barber were 18th and 19th, respectively.

Paralympic champ Mark Arendz did not race.

In the women's 10 km visually impaired free technique, Russia had its second clean sweep of the podium with Anna Panferova winning gold, Vera Khlyzova taking silver, and Anastasiia Bagiian grabbing bronze.

In the men's 10 km sitting free technique, Italy's Giuseppe Romele won gold and Russian Ivan Golubkov took second.

Canadian Collin Cameron claimed bronze and countryman Derek Zaplotinsky was fifth.

In women's 7.5 km sitting, USA's Oksana Masters and Kendall Gretsch were first and second, respectively. Russia's Natalia Kocherova was third.

The top Canadian was Lyne-Marie Bilodeau who finished ninth.

With five gold medals, Canada leads with the most top spots after two days.

Russia leads in overall medals in Canmore with 20 (four gold, eight silver, eight bronze).

The Para Nordic Skiing world cup continues Tuesday (Dec. 7) at 10 a.m. at the Canmore Nordic Centre.

For full results, visit

Jordan Small

About the Author: Jordan Small

An award-winning reporter, Jordan Small has covered sports, the arts, and news in the Bow Valley since 2014. Originally from Barrie, Ont., Jordan has lived in Alberta since 2013.
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