PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA – Mark Arendz has been preparing for the next 10 days for the last four years.
The 28-year-old Harstville native will compete in six cross-country skiing and biathlon races at the Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang.
“Everything is building towards the opening ceremonies tomorrow evening, then the real show begins,” he said Thursday evening from South Korea. “I’ve been working the last four years towards this, and it’s kind of like now it's finally going to start.”
The opening ceremonies takes place beginning at 7 a.m. Atlantic.
Arendz’s first race, the biathlon sprint, will be the day after the opening ceremonies.
“It’s nice,” he said. “Once the Games start, we’re right into it.”
Arendz won a silver and a bronze at the 2014 Games in Sochi, Russia, and earned five medals at 2017 Para-Nordic World Championships.
He doesn’t have medal goals for this year’s event and just wants to ski the best races he can.
“My focus is on the process and what I can control,” he said.
Arendz said his preparation and training has gone well, including some recent races in Germany.
“Everything is right where I want it to be,” he said. “I’m coming into form now and I’m looking forward to being able to give it my all in that first race and see where that ends up.”
Arendz has been at other Paralympic Games where athletes were spread out in satellite villages, but this time everyone is together.
“It really adds to the atmosphere.”
Earlier this week, Arendz met Summerside native Billy Bridges, a member of the para ice hockey team, in the athletes’ village.
“That was kind of funny,” Arendz said, noting they have known each other for years from other Paralympic Games. “We were just kind of passing by each other in the village and we were like ‘whoa, let’s take a photo’.”
Need to know
Details about Team Canada at the Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, as provided by Canadian Paralympic Committee:
- 55 athletes make up the largest team ever to represent Canada at the Paralympic Winter Games, besting Sochi 2014 by one athlete.
- 25 athletes will be competing at the Paralympic Games for the first time.
- The most experienced Paralympian is hockey player Brad Bowden with five previous Games appearances to his name (four Winter, one Summer).
- 18 members of the team have won a Paralympic medal.
- Para nordic skier Brian McKeever holds the most Paralympic medals on the team with 13, including 10 gold, two silver and one bronze, from four Paralympic Games. He is the flag-bearer for today’s opening ceremonies.
- The oldest athlete on the team is James Anseeuw from wheelchair curling at 58 years old.
- The youngest athlete on the team is Para nordic’s Natalie Wilkie who turned 17 years old on Jan. 21. There are two other 17-year-olds on the team: James Dunn and Mel Pemble.
- Para ice hockey is bringing the largest contingent with 17 athletes.
- The smallest team is wheelchair curling, with five athletes.
- Ontario is home to the most members of the Canadian Paralympic Team with 19 athletes hailing from the province. Following behind is Alberta with 10, British Columbia with nine, Quebec with seven, Manitoba with three, Saskatchewan with three and Prince Edward Island with two. Yukon and Newfoundland and Labrador each have one athlete.
- Three athletes have also competed in summer sports at the Paralympic Games: Brad Bowden, Cindy Ouellet and Liam Hickey (all in wheelchair basketball). Ouellet and Hickey will be making their Winter Games debuts.