Canada's Wilkie races to gold, Hudak grabs bronze in women's cross-country race
Teammate Emily Young finishes 5th in near-podium sweep
Canada's Natalie Wilkie struck gold while teammate Brittany Hudak won a bronze medal in the women's standing 15-kilometre cross-country skiing race on Monday at the Beijing Paralympics.
The 21-year-old Wilkie, of Salmon Arm, B.C., crossed the finish line in 48 minutes 4.8 seconds to edge American Sydney Peterson who claimed silver with a time of 49:00.2. Hudak completed the race in 49:27.8.
For Wilkie, the win is a great improvement on her sixth-place finish in the event at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, where she was the youngest of the Canadian cohort.
Despite her youth, she claimed three medals — gold in the 7.5km event, silver in the 4x2.5km relay, and bronze in the sprint event four years back.
"It was tough coming from Pyeongchang with so much success and knowing that the bar was already high, and I had to work that much harder to reach it again," Wilkie said. "So it's super special standing here in Zhangjiakou with the gold medal.
"I know I raced well today, not just because I won the gold medal but because I paced my race very well."
WATCH | Canada's Wilkie, Hudak ski to gold, bronze medals:
As for Prince Albert, Sask., native Hudak, this is her second podium finish in her third Paralympics, having won bronze in the 12.5km biathlon in 2018.
"I'm just really happy to pull off a podium here at the Games. It's amazing. There was a little bit of stress going into this race. The classic races for us, typically we have pretty good results so sometimes you're just really hoping to carry that momentum into the race.
Aside from training, Wilkie and Hudak have competed side by side in World Cup events leading up to the Games, including sharing a gold medal in the 7.5km event in December.
"Honestly, it's so amazing. I am so happy for my teammate, Natalie," Hudak said. We've spent so many years training together. I wouldn't want to share the podium with anyone else."
Wilkie shared a similar sentiment.
"There is no one I would rather share the podium with than Brittany Hudak," she said. "It's just been awesome to see that all our hard work has paid off here at the Paralympics and we're so close."
Fellow Canadian Emily Young placed fifth with a time of 52:06.70.