Path to Pyeongchang: Para Nordic skiing
With today marking a year to go until the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Paralympics, there’s no better time to take a look at how those vying to be a part of ParalympicsGB are shaping up ahead of what could be a stellar year on the snow and ice.
Para Nordic skiing is the next under the spotlight, full of an abundance of new talent looking to make their mark on the big stage.
A lot to learn for Arnold
He had barely a week’s worth of experience on the snow, but that didn’t stop Steve Arnold from having the time of his life at the Para-Nordic World Championships in Finsterau.
Making his major debut since converting from summer sports, the double amputee made his mark in the LW12 classification where he raced on sit skis to take part in the sprint competition.
But the 37-year-old was not done there, also taking part in the 7.5km and 15km cross-country competitions in what was undoubtedly a busy week.
And with a seismic improvement already seen from events prior to Christmas, it’s little wonder Arnold is confident with just how much progress can be made in a year.
“That’s my first race ever completed, I still have a lot to learn in this new sport but am fairly happy with how it went, apart from falling in the finishing straight,” he said
“I think the sprint was my worst event at this competition, being the 1km my lack of technique and turning control let me down but I can't really complain with only eight days experience on snow.”
Experience the key for Ahrens
You’d be hard-pressed to find a man who could say they were a Paralympic athlete before the turn of the century, but Terry Ahrens certainly was.
A veteran of Japan 1998, that experience was certainly worth its weight in gold for the 47-year-old this time around in Germany.
Returning this season, Ahrens has already adjusted back to the World Cup scene in what was ideal preparation for the World Championships for the LW6 biathlete.
But despite missing just five out of 20 targets there, the skis were just not quite his friend this time despite finishing in both events of his Championships – though he was pleased that tight margins could be the determining factor in future success.
“There was a big improvement in cross country on the second day,” he said.
“Across the flat and down the hills were good, but I still had tired legs, so struggled a little on the hills. All in all, I am happy with the race, just need to focus now on finding a few more seconds.”
Meenagh: Fire in the belly and ice in the mind
Another athlete who made his World Championships debut in Germany, Scott Meenagh was once a man more used water than snow and ice.
Originally a rower, this is the first Nordic season for Meenagh – already showing he has bags of potential to take forward.
With results far from the be all and end all, the 27-year-old is already eyeing up bigger and better things ahead of 2017, with plenty of time left to hone on his talent.
“I enjoyed the race, a big step forward from my last sprint effort,” he said.
“I had fire in the belly but focused on keeping ice in the mind and controlling the technical areas of the course. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the competition.”
With at least two members of the team still in the infancy of their para-Nordic lives, it’s sure to be an exciting 12 months to see just how far they can go ahead of Pyeongchang.
Already noticing major improvements since previous World Cup outings, the coming weeks will once again be a test of their mettle, with Ahrens also set to narrow in his focus and build on his sixth-place Paralympic Games showing from 1998.
“Scott and Terry had impressive performances and both have come such a long way since racing in Finland,” said Team Leader Elizabeth Winfield.
“Both halved their World Cup Points since competing in the same race in the World Cup in Finland prior to Christmas, meaning that both athletes were inside the minimum Paralympic qualification.
“Still areas to improve but a great to see the improvements that have been made over such a short period.”