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Canada's Brittany Hudak starts season on fire with four world cup golds in Canmore

Canada's Para Nordic skiers had a strong showing on home soil in Canmore

CANMORE – Hey, Brittany Hudak, leave some gold for the rest of us.

The Paralympic skier was money at the Canmore Para Nordic Skiing World Cup with four golds she cashed in after six races in nine days (Dec 4-12).

"I'm absolutely pumped at how the races went for me," said Hudak. "It gives me a lot of confidence going into the rest of the season."

Winning two golds and a silver in women's standing cross-country and two golds in biathlon, the elite 28-year-old athlete who lives and trains in Canmore said December is typically the time of year to measure one's fitness and not gold mining.

However, a couple of factors leading into the season-opening world cup for Hudak and team Canada such as hometown pride and exceptionally solid training throughout the COVID-19 pandemic had the Canucks pushing each other to be better.

Para Nordic head coach Robin McKeever commented at the Canmore world cup that pupils Hudak and Natalie Wilkie were faster than they've ever been.

After the sixth and final day of Para Nordic Skiing races on Sunday, Canada's medal count was at 17 (nine gold, five silver, three bronze), including two golds and two silvers from Wilkie, two golds from Brian McKeever and gold, silver and bronze from Collin Cameron.

"We're always focused at world championships and Games, so really trying to build on our fitness throughout the year and be fast more toward the end of the year," said Hudak of Prince Albert, Sask. "I think this year, everyone on the team has noticed that our fitness has improved drastically and everyone's been feeling pretty good and it's really nice to see where our base fitness is at for this time of year."

The red-hot Hudak was only held off the podium once, finishing fourth in last Thursday's (Dec. 9) standing individual. Her teammates Wilkie and Emily Young finished with silver and bronze in the race, respectfully.

Flurries pounded down on skiers for Saturday's biathlon sprint in Canmore, but racing on the home course for years, Hudak expertly navigated the snowy day in the mountains to take more than a 30 second victory on 9/10 shooting.

Russia's Iuliia Mikheeva (10/10) finished second and Poland's Iweta Faron (8/10) was third.

In Sunday's finale, Hudak shot 19/20 in middle distance and crossed the line at 32:49.4.

Young (19/20) claimed silver at a time of 33:20.1, more than 10 seconds ahead of Russia's Mikheeva in third.

Young had two podiums and five top-five finishes at the Canmore world cup.

"I was feeling a little bit tired [Sunday] after race No. 6 here in nine days and the body was definitely feeling a bit more sluggish than I would have liked," said Hudak. "But I knew if I just kind of kept skiing consistently and kept it together in the range then it could be potential for a good day and it was so fun getting the splits off my teammates, we all had a really good day and that kept me motivated on the course as well and I'm super happy to have just one missed shot out of 20 so that's good."

Canada's Mark Arendz missed the podium in the biathlon races, finishing fourth place twice. The 31-year-old Paralympic champion won bronze during the cross-country portion of the Canmore races.

"I look at it as a whole. It's working on every race throughout the week," said Arendz. "That's what I need in order to be successful again in Beijing [from March 4 to 13] ... It's more about getting each day right. I'm not really focused on one particular race or anything like that. It's just making sure I can get the most out of each race."

Russia led in overall medals in Canmore with 64 (19 gold, 23 silver, 22 bronze).

The Para Nordic team heads to Finland (Dec. 17-21) for the next Para Nordic Skiing world cup, but memories of a huge medal haul in Canmore will surely last throughout the season.

"I was way more motivated to race in Canmore and being home crowd really makes a difference," Hudak said. "Seeing the volunteers that I know, locals, it really just kind of puts a cherry on top of everything, it's so great to race in Canmore. I love the skiing here and I think that also gets me super pumped to race each day and it's so nice to see everyone around."

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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