Return to Prince Albert, Sask. with bronze is 'the cherry on top' for Paralympian Brittany Hudak

Brittany Hudak, a cross-country skier from Prince Albert, Sask., travelled to Pyeongchang, and came home with a bronze medal in the 12.5 km standing biathlon

Cross-country skier still finds it hard to believe she achieved a podium finish at her second Games

Brittany Hudak says in the week since she's returned from competing at the Pyeongchang Paralympics, she still has moments where she's amazed she came home with a bronze medal. (Submitted by Brittany Hudak)

Nearing the last lap of her long biathlon race, Brittany Hudak heard the yelling.

Her coach and staff shouted at her — she was only ahead by two seconds to her closest competitor — with a third place position in the Pyeongchang Paralympics in the offing.

"So it was literally turning the brain off and skiing as fast as I could to get to the finish," said Hudak, a cross-country skier from Prince Albert, Sask.

She had been focusing on shooting cleanly and skiing consistently during the 12.5km standing biathlon, and could feel the race going well.

She crossed the finish line and laid down, just waiting for the final competitors to complete the race. When the Russian athlete finished second, and Hudak found she was still in third position, she felt a feeling of shock pass over her.

"I was hoping that I could say I had podium potential at the Games. When it happens, it's actually a totally different feeling," she said.

Hudak found herself surrounded by her excited team, and then swept into the media pit to talk to reporters.

"It was definitely a surreal moment," she recalled.

A group was on hand to welcome Brittany Hudak and her fellow Paralympian athletes arriving back home at the Calgary airport this week, including a surprise victory, her father Dave Hudak. (Submitted by Brittany Hudak)

Pyeongchang 2018 marked Canada's most successful showing at the Paralympics, with athletes winning 10 goal medals, and 19 medals overall.

While veteran athletes like Mark Arendz, Brian McKeever, and Chris Klebl performed well, Hudak noted several Canadian skiers exceeded expectations.

"It's amazing to see for our program. We've got developing athletes and world-class athletes out there that can bring home medals," she said.

Next up for the Canmore-based skier is a return this April to her home community in Prince Albert, where she first began skiing.

It's the "cherry on top" of winning she says, knowing people in Prince Albert will be there as they always have, supporting her and cheering her victory.

Perhaps by then, it will all have sunk in. But for now, she's still in disbelief.

"It just really some days hits me — I can't believe I actually came home with a medal."