Canadian athletes open Sochi Paralympics by winning 3 medals
The Canadian Press
Published Saturday, March 8, 2014 4:31PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, March 9, 2014 12:27AM EST
SOCHI, Russia -- Mark Arendz recorded a first for Canada on the opening day of competition at the Paralympic Winter Games.
The 24-year-old from Hartsville, P.E.I., won a silver medal Saturday in the biathlon, the first Canadian ever to do so in the event. Arendz finished just .07 seconds behind gold medallist Vladislav Lekomtcev of Russia, who posted a winning time of 19 minutes 3.7 seconds.
Russian Azat Karachurin finished third in 19:14.9.
Arendz's coach, Robin McKeever, guided his brother and 10-time Paralympic medallist, Brian, to Canada's only other Paralympic medal in biathlon. They captured a bronze medal in the visually impaired 7.5-kilometre sprint discipline at the 2006 Paralympics in Turin, Italy.
"It feels absolutely great and a big relief to get on the podium right away," said a beaming Arendz. "I fought as hard as I could, and it was such a close race at the end."
It was one of three medals for Canada on the day.
Josh Dueck of Kimberley B.C., also earned a silver medal in the men's downhill sit-ski. Mac Marcoux of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., and guide Robin Femy of Mont-Tremblant, Que., claimed a bronze in the men's visually-impaired downhill.
Dueck won his medal on the 10th anniversary of the freestyle skiing accident that landed him in a wheelchair. It was his second Paralympic medal after claiming a silver in slalom at the 2010 Vancouver Paralympic Games.
"This is fantastic," Dueck said. "I'm really about performance, and I took a fast line down the hill and took some chances and I got pretty lucky.
"I crossed the line and was thrilled. Second is awesome."
Kurt Oatway, of Calgary and Caleb Brousseau, of Terrace, B.C., were fifth and sixth, respectively, in the sit-ski category.
Also, the Canadian sledge hockey team opened with a convincing 10-1 win over Sweden. Anthony Gale of Brampton, Ont., and Adam Dixon of Midland, Ont., led the way with two goals and two assists apiece.
The Canadian team returns to action Sunday facing Norway. Four years ago, the Norwegians nipped Canada to win the bronze medal in Vancouver.
And in wheelchair curling, Canada, the defending world champion, earned wins of 6-3 over Great Britain and 5-4 versus host Russia. The Canadians take on Sweden on Sunday.
Arendz was fourth midway through the race but shot clean in his second stop at the range to begin his successful charge to a podium finish.
"The plan 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."
The course was slushy because of the warm weather, which created challenges for Arendz.
"It is so warm and not really winter-like conditions so the course was really slowing down out there," he said. "The guys in the wax room did a great job on the skis.
"I will celebrate this one with them."
Russia's Alena Kaufman shot clean en route to winning the women's standing class race. Caroline Bisson of Ottawa finished 14th.
Margarita Gorbounova, also of Ottawa, and her guide, Andrea Bundon of Regina, were seventh in the six-kilometre women's visually impaired race.