The IPC Biathlon World Championships (ok cross country as well…) start in Finsterau, Germany on the 11th of February. Canada’s Mark Arendz will be taking part and so I had a chat with him before it all gets underway. Mark was born on the 3rd of March 1990 on Prince Edward Island. At age seven he was involved in a farming accident which led to the amputation of his left arm above the elbow. In 2013 he won the overall IPC Biathlon World Cup in the standing category after finishing second in the two previous years. He won a silver and a bronze medal in the Sochi Paralympics and he already has three World Championship medals, 1 gold and 2 bronze, and is hoping to add some more to his collection in Finsterau!
Follow Mark on Twitter: @markarendz
Have a look at his website: http://www.markarendz.com/
Why did you become a biathlete?
The challenge! Balancing both the endurance and the all-out power of the skiing, along with the precision and need to adapt instantly to the environment that is required for shooting. It is a sport where on the rare occasion you can triumph with an excellent performance in one or the other, but usually, you need to perform both on the tracks and the range to succeed. Though I know I may never achieve it, I wake up each morning excited to attempt to achieve the perfect biathlon race.
Are you happy with your World Cup results/performances so far this season?
I am very excited by my World Cup results so far this season. Over the training season I had a different mindset and focus for my shooting, and I feel that this new approach is paying off. Years of habit needed to be broken down to the basics once again, then built back up. After quite a few years working on my skiing, my cross country skiing is coming up to the level I believe it should be at, especially the classic. It is a great reward to see years of hard work coming together to the point where I believe I’m competitive for the win in any classic race. (Before I was a Biathlon Specialist, now I’m a Classic Biathlon Specialist.)
Are you excited about the World Championships? What are your goals for the biathlon races?
I am looking forward to the World Championships in Finsterau. I have had some great races there, and a few that left me wanting more. As for biathlon goals; I will focus on executing my race plan to the best of my abilities. Shooting will be a key component to that, as will being efficient while skiing.
How have you trained for the World Championships? What are your plans up until the races?
Since returning from the World Cup in Vuokatti, I have been in Canmore. The early part of January has been primarily a training block. I raced a few local loppets at the end of the month; having some fun as well as a positive training effect. A week before the Worlds begin I will head to Ramsau, Austria to get over jetlag and the final preparations for World Championships.
How does skiing with one pole affect your technique?
Skiing with only one pole, I find it affects my ski tactics more than technique. The technique my coach and I try to work on is identical to that of anyone using two poles. The difference would be where to use each of the different techniques. One skate is primarily an upper body technique, so I try not to use it as much. So I switch to Offset or Two skate sooner. Though I try not to do many of them; penalty loops are an interesting aspect with only one pole. Some go in a favourable direction, where my pole is to the outside, while others are not so favourable.
You don’t carry your rifle in the race. How is your shooting different to what we see on the IBU World Cup?
There are three significant differences between biathlon on the IBU World Cup and IPC World Cup. First, we use air rifles; shooting at targets that are 10m away and only from the prone position. Second, no one carries their rifle; coaches place the rifle on the mat as an athlete skies into the range. This also allows for very fast setup and shooting times. The last significant difference is those athletes with an impairment of one, or both arms use a spring rest under the forestock of the rifle for it to rest upon. The rest of the shooting is the same as anyone would use in the IBU.
In the summer I train and compete with members of Biathlon Canada’s World Cup team. Using a .22 caliber rifle and a specially designed prosthetic, it allows me to shoot both the prone and standing positions. It allows me a unique opportunity to work on my shooting.
What are your strengths and weaknesses?
Shooting is a longtime strength of mine. Adapting to the shooting environment while still performing. As a bigger skier, I rely on my power, having to focus more when the conditions get softer. Having to deal with jetlag at most competitions isn’t ideal, but as with anything, it gets better with practice.
Canada has a really good para-nordic team. Do you get help from your country in term of funding and support like coaching/physios/wax techs etc? How does it work?
The success comes from a well-oiled machine of staff, each with their responsibilities but the ability to help out in other areas when needed. For example, a biathlon coach that is in charge of feeds and splits during a cross country race, and so on. Cohesion within the Canadian team has always been high. It makes for an enjoyable atmosphere in training camps, day to day training or at competitions. Each athlete has their strengths which they share with others, and this builds a solid team. For me, I try to share my biathlon experience with the other shooters. While I learn a lot from teammates like Brian McKeever or Graham Nishikawa.
More and more of your fellow athletes are doing both a winter and summer sport now. Have you ever considered turning to the ‘dark side’ of summer sport? What sport would you do?
Yes, I have played with the idea of doing a summer sport. The first one that comes to mind is competitive shooting, 10m air rifle perhaps even pistol. If mountain biking were to get into the Paralympic schedule, I would consider that as well.
Does your rifle have a name?
Warhammer – it may be small, but it packs a mighty punch!
Quick fire Questions:
Favourite biathlon nation (not your own): Germany
Favourite track: Kananaskis Country, Alberta (south of Canmore)
Favourite biathlete: Magdalena Neuner
Favourite shooting range: Canmore, CAN
Favourite biathlon race: Pursuit
Lucky bib number: Haven’t discovered it yet! (Still waiting to race in #23)
Best thing about being a biathlete: The roar of the crowd as you hit all five targets!
Follow @biathlon23 on Twitter! Like biathlon23 on Facebook!