(Cross Country Canada press release)
SOCHI, Russia — Mark Arendz fired his name into the history books on Saturday as the first Canadian ever to win a silver medal in biathlon at the Paralympic Winter Games.
Days removed from his 24th birthday, the Hartsville, P.E.I. resident came a hair short of winning the gold after clocking the second fastest time at 19:14.0 (1+0) in the men’s 7.5-kilometre standing biathlon competition.
“It feels absolutely great and a big relief to get on the podium right away,” beamed Arendz in the finish corral. “I fought as hard as I could, and it was such a close race at the end.”
The two-time Paralympian finished just .07 seconds behind the gold medallist from Russia, Vladislav Lekomtcev who clocked-in at 19:13.7 (0+1) after crashing at the finish line. Russia’s Azat Karachurin also missed one shot en route to winning the bronze medal with a time of 19:14.9.
Arendz was in fourth place at the midway point of the race, but the hard-nosed Islander put the pedal down after shooting clean in his second stop at the range to charge his way onto the podium.
“The plan today was to shoot clean and I was focused on following that, but I missed that one target just slightly,” said Arendz. “I thought I had it but a twitch of the finger and I just missed it. I wasn’t far off. I told myself to fight hard on that penalty loop to get over the penalty and finish strong.”
After going perfect in his second round of shooting, Arendz hammered the pace in his third and final trip around the slushy 2.5-kilometre loop to secure his name in the history books.
“It is so warm and not really winter like conditions so the course was really slowing down out there. The guys in the wax room did a great job on the skis. I will celebrate this one with them.”
It has been a memorable run for the rising Canadian star since making his Paralympic debut on home snow in 2010. With a room full of medals, he has twice finished second overall on the IPC World Cup biathlon standings, and last year locked up his first overall Word Cup title in the men’s standing category to cap off a season that was highlighted by one gold and two bronze medals at the 2013 World Championships.
Arendz’s coach, Robin McKeever, guided his brother and 10-time Paralympic medallist, Brian, to Canada’s only other Paralympic medal in biathlon. The brother tandem won a bronze medal in the visually impaired 7.5-kilometre sprint discipline at the 2006 Paralympics in Turin, Italy.
Two Canadian women also hit the start line for the opening day of biathlon competitions at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. Ottawa’s Caroline Bisson placed 14th in the women’s six-kilometre standing category. Bisson went 2+1 on the range to post a time of 27:14.8.
“I was so excited to race when I woke up this morning. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to get this first one out of the way,” said Bisson of her first-ever Paralympic race. “It was such a thrill to compete today. I pushed as hard as I could to the end. Overall I am satisfied with that.”
Russia’s Alena Kaufman shot clean en route to posting a winning time of 18:27.2 in the women’s standing class.
Margarita Gorbounova, also of Ottawa, and her guide, Andrea Bundon of Regina, teamed up to finish seventh in the women’s six-kilometre standing race. Gorbounova, who missed two shots in her first bout of shooting, stopped the clock at 26:17.8.
Russia’s Mikhalina Lysova took advantage of a perfect day of shooting to go on and win the gold medal with a time of 20:03.2.