LILLEHAMMER, NORWAY – A pair of Canmore residents wasted no time getting on the podium at the para-nordic skiing IPC World Cup in Lillehammer, Norway on Thursday (Dec. 12).
Canmore’s Brian McKeever, who carried the flag into the opening ceremonies at the 2018 Paralympic Games, followed the golden pace set by his guide, Russell Kennedy, at the Birkebeineren Ski Stadium finishing a blistering 40 seconds faster than his top rival, Sweden's Zebastian Modin.
“It was really good today," McKeever said in a press release. "Russ picked the pace today and I tried not to ask him to slow down. I just wanted to suffer for as long as I could.
“We got to that third and final lap and I had to get him to slow it down a bit."
McKeever said the conditions were difficult, but relied on Kennedy’s expertise to guide him through the 7.5-kilometre classic-ski visually impaired category of the world cup race in 19:32.
“Russ was the key," said the 17-time Paralympic medallist. "He was super attentive and we were really in synch in the last lap. It was a fun start.”
Also landing on the podium was the PyeongChang Games closing ceremony flag bearer and Canmore resident Mark Arendz. Arendz skied to a bronze medal in the 2.5-km men’s standing division with a time of 19:58.5.
“It was a great start to the season. At times I skied very well, but little mistakes added up and I finished third,” said Arendz, an eight-time Paralympic medallist.
The 29-year-old finished 56 seconds behind the winning mark set by Russia’s Vladislav Lekomtsev who clocked-in at 19:08.0.
The Canadian women were also battling for the podium in the women’s 7.5-km standing classification.
Brittany Hudak and Natalie Wilkie placed sixth and seventh respectively, just over 20 seconds off the podium.
The para-nordic world cup continues on Saturday (Dec.. 14) in Norway.