Led by a pair of former flag-bearers in Brian McKeever and Mark Arendz, Canada’s Para nordic team for the 2022 Beijing Paralympics was announced on Wednesday.
The 12-person team includes 10 Paralympic veterans and two rookies. The team set a national record with 16 medals at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games.
“This is an experienced group of athletes who have won medals under the most intense pressure at major international competitions including multiple times at the Paralympic Games,” said Kate Boyd, Nordiq Canada’s high-performance director for the Para nordic program.
McKeever, Canada’s most decorated winter Paralympian with 17 medals, led Canada into the opening ceremony of the 2018 Pyeongchang Games. Beijing will mark his sixth and final Paralympics, after announcing in October 2020 his intention to retire following these Games.
The visually impaired athlete from Canmore, Alta., will race alongside guides Russell Kennedy and Graham Nishikawa. Among his 17 medals, 13 are gold.
Team of 12 Para nordic athletes to race for Canada at Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games<a href=”https://t.co/IhULUTIocQ”>https://t.co/IhULUTIocQ</a> <a href=”https://t.co/Hfpnl0j2ZT”>pic.twitter.com/Hfpnl0j2ZT</a>
Arendz enters his fourth Paralympics coming off a six-medal performance in Pyeongchang, which included one gold. He later carried Canada’s flag in the closing ceremony.
The Hartsville P.E.I., native will turn 32 one day ahead of the opening ceremony in Beijing on March 4. The Games run through March 13.
“This will be a totally unique Games experience. I’m thrilled to head to a venue that no one else has skied or has conditions that we have experienced. I’m excited to be putting in the final preparations to go in ready to perform,” he said.
Also competing on the men’s side are Collin Cameron, Ethan Hess and Derek Zaplotinsky, each making their second Paralympic appearance. Cameron won three bronze medals in 2018.
Meanwhile, Natalie Wilkie started her Paralympic career with a bang in 2018, collecting one of each medal as a 17-year-old.
Now 21, the Salmon Arm, B.C., native is back for more.
“I know my teammates and I are stronger, and more focused than ever. I know that Team Canada is going to come in strong and throw down some amazing performances,” Wilkie said.
Two other Pyeongchang medallists in Brittany Hudak and Emily Young will also return for Beijing. Hudak, 28, took biathlon bronze while Young, 31, captured mixed-relay silver and 7.5-kilometre cross-country bronze.
The women’s team is rounded out by Paralympic rookies Lyne-Marie Bilodeau and Christina Picton.
Canada is expected to send about 50 athletes to the Beijing Paralympics.
- Mark Arendz – Hartsville, P.E.I.
- Lyne-Marie Bilodeau – Sherbrooke, Que.
- Collin Cameron – Bracebridge, Ont.
- Ethan Hess – Pemberton, B.C.
- Brittany Hudak – Prince Albert, Sask.
- Russell Kennedy (guide) – Canmore, Alta.
- Brian McKeever – Canmore, Alta.
- Graham Nishikawa (guide) – Whitehorse
- Christina Picton – Fonthill, Ont.
- Emily Young – Kelowna, B.C.
- Natalie Wilkie – Salmon Arm, B.C.
- Derek Zaplotinsky – Smoky Lake, Alta.