Let the Games begin. The Paralympic Games, that is.
That’s the battle cry of Hartsville native Mark Arendz.
The Paralympic nordic skier begins the World Cup season today in Canmore, Alta.
About 120 athletes from 12 countries are in the hunt for roster spots on their national Paralympic Games teams at the 2013 International Paralympic Committee event, including the 22-year-old Arendz who had two seventh-place finishes in his first Paralympics in 2010.
Last year, he finished second overall in the IPC World Cup standings.
The Guardian caught up with Arendz via email from his home and training centre in Canmore for a Q&A about the event, the skiing season and the Paralympics March 7-16 in Sochi, Russia.
The Guardian — What is your general health heading into the IPC? Are you happy with your early results?
Arendz — I’m feeling great heading into the first World Cup races of the season. It is a great opportunity to stay home and have the rest of the world come to Canada for the first races of the year. Over the past few weekends I have been able to test myself in several domestic races.
These races allowed me to switch between the physical and mental mindset of training to a competitive mindset, to get back into the rhythm and focus of racing.
Those races were not my fastest, but that’s not what I want nor need right now. They provided the opportunity to start off the season and prepare for the Canadian World Cup and then the Paralympics later on. This season’s goal is to be the fastest in March at the 2014 Paralympics.
The Guardian — What events are you entered in this week? What are your goals for each event?
Arendz — At the IPC World Cup in Canmore there are six races; three cross country and three biathlon. I will race the first two cross country races — the 10K and the Sprint. Then I will prepare and refocus for all three of the biathlon races later on in the week — the short, middle and long distance races.
The Guardian — How much does a good finish in Canmore count toward making the Paralympic team?
Arendz — The races are more important to start the season on the right foot. I have made the qualifying standards and am solely focused on preparing for the Games. This World Cup provides an opportunity for building confidence and competition experience towards the Games in March.
The Guardian — What things have you done heading into this season to improve from last season?
Arendz — I haven’t really changed much for this year, if anything it has been a sharpened focus both on the training and recovery. It is all about the work and preparation for the Games.
The Guardian — What placings would be good finishes for you this early in the season?
Arendz — It always feel great to do well at home in front of family and friends, but the priority is on preparation for the Games.
The Guardian — Does the looming Paralympics change how you prepare and compete? Can the thought of the Games affect an athlete’s performance and, if so, how can an athlete get past it?
Arendz — The training has been focused on being my best towards the end of the season, in March.
Part of that preparation is competing at the World Cup races and learning both from the successes and weaknesses that present themselves during these racing opportunities. The key is to remain focused on the goal and what it will take to achieve that goal, throughout the training and competitive seasons.
On the web at www.cccski.com.