Canadians return home after successful Paralympics

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Mark Arendz competes in the men's 15km standing biathlon at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia.

Some athletes like Brian McKeever will rest before planning their future while P.E.I.’s Mark Arendz is already looking ahead to 2018

By Gregory Strong

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO — Canada’s Brian McKeever added three more gold medals to his impressive Paralympic medal collection and he might not be done yet.

The visually impaired cross-country ski star was victorious in the one-kilometre sprint, 10K and 20K races this month in Sochi. That made it 13 career Paralympic podium appearances since his debut back in 2002 at Salt Lake.

McKeever could be game to give it another go in 2018 but for now, he’s going to enjoy his latest accomplishments and make the call on his future Paralympic plans down the road.

“You sit there and plan for four years for one event and once it’s over then you need a bit of decompression time,” he said Monday. “So that’s what we’re going to take now before we make any big decisions. But as an athlete you generally live in four-year chunks. For me, I don’t think I’ll continue for one year without going for four.”

The veteran skier from Canmore, Alta., will be 38 when the next Paralympic Winter Games are held in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“Right now I’m still having fun, I’m enjoying it and we’ve got a great program and so I’m looking forward to continuing, as it sits,” he said. “It would just be more about whether or not my body can handle four more years of pounding it out. A lot more injuries are piling up as I’m getting older and older and with all of those things the recovery is a little bit longer.

“But I’m certainly having fun and I’m enjoying the team atmosphere that we have and the great success that the rest of the team has had so if at all possible, I don’t see why not.”

McKeever won his final gold in Sunday’s 10K event. Canada finished with 16 medals in Sochi — seven gold, two silver and seven bronze.

The athletes had little time to rest. McKeever was one of several Canadian team members who made a brief stop at Pearson International Airport for a reception and media availability on Monday.

Some friends and family members were on hand to greet the returning athletes, who were tired from the long overseas flight but still buzzing from the Sochi experience.

A number of team members plan to take their time before deciding on Pyeongchang while others can’t wait to start training for it. One of them is biathlete Mark Arendz, who reached the Paralympic podium for the first time in Sochi after finishing seventh and ninth at the 2010 Games.

“A huge improvement from Vancouver,” Arendz said. “That’s what I’m after and now I’m hungry for more. I’ve got a silver and a bronze and now it’s time over the next four years to focus on improving that.”

Host Russia led all countries with a whopping 80 medals (30 gold, 28 silver, 22 bronze) in Sochi. Germany was next with nine gold medals, followed by Canada (seven) and Ukraine and France (five each).

The Canadian Paralympic Committee achieved its goal of finishing in the top three in gold medals.

Ukraine was second in the overall medal standings with 25. The United States was third with 18, followed by Canada (16) and Germany (15).

 

 

Organizations: Gregory StrongTHE CANADIAN PRESS, Pearson International Airport, Canadian Paralympic Committee

Geographic location: Sochi, Canada, TORONTO Pyeongchang Canmore South Korea Germany Ukraine Vancouver Russia France United States

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