Arnold determined to end whirlwind year on a high with PyeongChang on the horizon
With Paralympic qualification up for grabs in only his second ever race, Steve Arnold has had far from a steady introduction to para Nordic skiing.
Having only taken up the sport in January, 2017 has proven to be a whirlwind year for Arnold, making his debut at February’s World Championships with only ten hours on the snow in his locker.
But as the former GB handcyclist prepares to mount his qualification campaign for PyeongChang, he’s determined to show a summer of hard work has paid off.
This weekend, the first Nordic World Cup of the season gets underway in Canmore, with Scott Meenagh and Terry Ahrens also flying the flag for Great Britain on the Canadian slopes.
And having missed out on the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games during his cycling career, Arnold is more determined than ever to make it onto the plane to PyeongChang.
“It’s been a hectic year, a whirlwind, because I haven’t even been doing the sport for a year yet,” said Arnold, who was vice-captain for the UK team at this year’s Invictus Games.
“Nordic skiing was a sport I had never done before, even before I was injured, so it interested me when I was given the opportunity.
“I wasn’t even thinking about PyeongChang when I first started. The first race I did was in February at the World Championships, and I only went because I needed to race.
“I definitely wasn’t good enough to be there at the time but I needed to go to make sure I raced that season.
“Over the summer, going to the Paralympics has become more and more of a reality. I’ve been getting a lot quicker and better at picking things up.
“Words can’t describe what it would mean to me to get to the Paralympics. It would be absolutely incredible.”
"Words can’t describe what it would mean to me to get to the Paralympics. It would be absolutely incredible." Steve Arnold
Para Nordic skiing sees athletes compete in biathlon and cross-country races, with Arnold getting his World Cup season underway on Saturday.
The action in Canmore runs from December 9-17, with the British team having spent the last week getting used to the conditions and fine-tuning their last-minute preparations.
But while he admits to feeling the pressure slowly starting to build on his shoulders, Arnold is quietly confident for the months ahead.
“We’re really looking forward to starting to race in Canmore,” he said.
“The track is looking good and we’ve been training a couple of times a day. The excitement is really starting to build.
“I’m starting to feel a bit of pressure and a lot of that is from myself. I don’t really know how this World Cup is going to go, I’ve only ever raced once before, but I know I’m in a better place than I was in February.
“Hopefully I can hit the qualifying standard, and if not, close to it, and then at least we know we’re moving in the right direction.
“Myself, Scott and Terry are all confident this season can go well. We feel like we’re really ready to go and we don’t think we’re that far behind the rest of the field now.”
Photo: Help for Heroes