CANMORE – One would be hard pressed to find a more confident Para Nordic athlete than Mark Arendz.
More than 300 days out, the eight-time Paralympic medallist is locked-in and ready to take on the world at the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games.
After a year that stripped away race opportunities due to COVID-19, the idea of being rusty might worry some athletes, but not Arendz, who's actually quite pleased with what his season absent of competition has meant to his spirit and body.
“I always excel better in the training and it was kind of neat this year to just work on kind of the training aspect of competition and making the most out of them without the actual result,” Arendz.
“The way I felt at the end of the winter, when it actually matters, I felt really good.”
The 31-year-old champ is entering an off-season in a position he hasn’t been in before a Games.
The last time Arendz competed at the Paralympics in 2018, the Prince Edward Island-native made Canadian history by winning six medals – gold, two silver, and three bronze – in cross-country and biathlon competitions. It’s the most medals any Canadian has won at a single Paralympic Winter Games.
Arendz was awarded Best Male Athlete at the Canadian Paralympic Sports Awards later that year.
When one Games ends, then begins a new four-year journey for the next one.
The Para Nordic champion has mastered one routine of training and competing in a single year, so when a “backup” alternative approach came along, it gave a new, refreshed perspective for Arendz.
In 2020-21, he elected to remain on home soil and put in work while Canadian Para Nordic teammates such as Brittany Hudak and Brian McKeever competed overseas in March on a very limited race schedule.
While getting a fresh look at rising competitors was a strategic move for someone like McKeever, being able to strictly focus on getting better for Beijing in Canmore’s high-altitude setting made for “a lot of gains to be had” for Arendz.
“Now that I’ve seen the races from a distance, I kind of have an idea [on what to expect from] certain people, but I’m really happy and confident with my decision to stay home and focus on the training and I know that’s going to make me faster in a year’s time.”
Conclusions from the season, aiming towards the next. https://t.co/jkTUenh0s3— Mark Arendz (@markarendz) April 10, 2021
An update after one strange year.
@fischersports #lekipoles @NordiqCanada @ownthepodium @ViewpointCMore #oakley @NordicMarksman @SkiuphillC #inov8
March 5, 2022 – the Paralympics opening day – is burned into Arendz’s mind.
He said that after this past winter, where race organizers gained experienced of running events during a pandemic, they'll be a much better position come the competitive season.
Even with COVID uncertainty, Arendz's fire is burning, and he's back in the gym already, working on fitness and core strength. With under 365 days until the big day, there's no moments to waste for the stoked competitor.
“This is a fun time,” Arendz said.