Arendz inspired by P.E.I.'s 'true sense of community'

Mark Arendz says ever since he was seven years old and had a “real eye-opening experience of what community could mean,” he’s been determined to give back to that community.

P.E.I. Paralympian says showing how dreams can come true is his way of giving back

Canada's Mark Arendz won silver at the season-opening para nordic World Cup event in Canmore, Alta., on Thursday, in the men's 15-kilometre, individual standing biathlon competition. (Kevin Light/CBC Sports)

Paralympic medalist Mark Arendz says ever since he was seven years old and had a "real eye-opening experience of what community could mean," he's been determined to give back to that community.

For the past two weeks at the Paralympic Games in South Korea, he's been doing just that.

The Hartsville, P.E.I., athlete has won five medals, with one race to go.

Arendz has also been named as Canada's flag bearer for the closing ceremonies on Sunday.

'You can achieve anything'

"As a kid, I had an accident on a small farm in Prince Edward Island and now tomorrow night, I'll be a flag bearer at the Paralympics and I hope my journey can inspire everyone," said Arendz, 28, in a phone interview Saturday with CBC.

"You set your dreams up, your goals and you can achieve anything by putting [in] the hard work, no matter what your start and I hope that's the message I can share with the community and with the rest of Canada."

Right after my accident I saw the true sense of community and I think only a community that P.E.I. could provide.— Mark Arendz

Arendz was seven when he lost his left arm above the elbow after falling into a grain auger, a device with a blade used to move grain, on the family farm. The day after the accident, a dozen people showed up at the farm to help.

"Right after my accident, I saw the true sense of community and I think only a community that P.E.I. could provide," Arendz said.

"Since then, I've always wanted to give back to the community and growing up that was through sports, whether it was coaching soccer or refereeing or helping out wherever I could. Now it's kind of developed into a sense I use my  athletic ability to give back to the community by giving them something to be so proud of on the international stage and the possibilities are endless if you're willing to do the work."

Arendz said his "wildest dreams came true" when he won the gold medal in the biathlon on Friday. And being from P.E.I., he said he had a good feeling the day of the big event.

"The gold medal day, I woke up and said, 'hey, this is kind of east coast weather' — a little bit of rain, a little bit of snow, freezing, a little bit of ice and then warm temperatures right after — so I felt right at home in that kind of weather and that kind of conditions."

He leaves South Korea on Monday and will compete in the Canadian Biathlon Championships in New Brunswick next week before returning home to P.E.I. and the community he speaks so fondly about.

"I'm looking forward to getting back east and being part of the community and being surrounded by a community that has given me so much and I look forward to sharing my experience and medals with P.E.I. and the rest of the east coast."

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With files from Maggie Brown