Salmon Arm’s Natalie Wilkie continued her exciting gold rush at the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing, China.
Following her gold medal March 7 when she dominated the women’s 15-kilometre classic-ski race, Wilkie, 21, owned the podium in the women’s standing sprint race at the Zhangjiakou Biathlon Centre.
Wilkie passed four of the six athletes in her heat as she powered up the long climb. Then, in a thrilling finish, she zipped past Norway’s Vilde Nilsen as they headed into the stadium.
“I’m in shock. It feels unreal to win the gold,” said Wilkie, according to a media release from Nordiq Canada. “I knew heading into this I had a really good shot, but there are so many things going on in the sprint that there is never a guarantee.
“Norway had that massive lead until the finishing chute where I out-skied Vilde. It feels pretty good to say that I’m now a three-time Paralympic champion.”
The two 2022 golds add to her set of a gold, silver and bronze from the 2018 Games. There she claimed gold in the middle distance, silver in the relay and bronze in the sprint events.
Back in Salmon Arm, her home team, the Larch Hills Nordic Ski Club, watched her race on the big screen in the Larch Hills chalet as well as gathering outside to create an enthusiastic video cheer for her.
The club announced on its Facebook page that the Salmar theatre will be live streaming two of Wilkie’s races, which will be open to the public. They will be shown Thursday, March 10 at 7:45 p.m. and Friday, March 11 at 6:50 p.m.
Just after Wilkie’s triumph on March 9, Canmore’s Brian McKeever, 42, who has competed in the Reino Keski Salmi Loppet at Larch Hills, skied to his 11th straight individual gold medal. With guide Russell Kennedy, he won the men’s visually impaired sprint race.
“The sprint is our toughest event to win. The older you get the less pure speed you have left,” remarked McKeever in the media release.
Athletes will take a day off before the competition resumes on Friday, March 11 with the biathlon distance events.
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