BY
Jason Simmonds

P.E.I. Paralympics athlete Mark Arendz driven to succeed

BY
Jason Simmonds

P.E.I. Paralympics athlete Mark Arendz driven to succeed

Mark Arendz knows about overcoming adversity at a young age.

Arendz lost his left arm above the elbow in a farming accident when he was seven years old. At that time, it appeared his life changed forever.

However, an introduction to Paralympics, featuring multiple events involving people with physical disabilities, allowed Arendz to continue his love of competing in sports while kickstarting a journey to international stardom for the Prince Edward Islander.

"For me, sports were almost therapeutic," said Arendz, who competed through elementary, junior high and high school.

“It allowed me to show off my abilities rather than my disability,” the now-31-year-old Arendz told SaltWire Network in a recent phone interview from Canmore, Alta., where he has trained since 2008. “That is the approach I took from the very beginning.”

When Arendz discovered biathlon and cross-country skiing, the sports gave him the opportunity to go even further and show the world what was possible.

“What the Paralympics mean to me is that opportunity to prove to everyone and myself that I can be one of the best in the world in biathlon and cross-country skiing.”

An accomplished Canadian athlete with a lengthy resumé, Arendz will compete at the 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing, March 4-13. It will mark Arendz’s fourth time representing Canada at the Paralympics.

Arendz, one of 12 athletes named to Team Canada's Para-Nordic team, will compete in the men's individual standing cross-country skiing and biathlon races.

Mark Arendz focuses on each stride at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang. Arendz will compete for Canada in the 2022 Games in men's individual standing cross-country skiing and biathlon races. - Canadian Paralympic Committee Photo

Kate Boyd, Nordiq Canada's high-performance director for the Para-Nordic program, described the team as an experienced group of athletes that knows how to perform and handle the intense pressure competing at the Paralympics.

"They are proven performers who have their eyes focused squarely on podium performances every time they put on a race bib," said Boyd.

Boyd went on to say the athletes "work together to develop a new generation of athletes who are excited to have the opportunity to test themselves on the ultimate stage".

Arendz, who grew up in Springton, said there is a “great sense of pride” to come from a small community in Canada’s smallest province and know everyone behind him is cheering him on.

“Being able to go out there and achieve what I can, for me, is the greatest way to give back to the community that has been there for me. Whether it’s the community I grew up in, the province of P.E.I. or the country of Canada, I know everyone has my back, and the support is there. It drives me to go farther.”

History

Arendz competed in the Paralympics for the first time in Vancouver in 2010. He won his first Paralympic medals – a silver and bronze – in Sochi in 2014 before a six-medal haul – one gold, two silver and three bronze – at the 2018 Games in PyeongChang.

“For me, Vancouver was the eye-opening experience. It was coming home from Vancouver back to the Island where I am like, ‘This is what I want to do.’

“I actually had to go to the Games to realize this is something I wanted to pursue and pursue it to the very highest level.”

Arendz termed the 2014 Games a success despite battling an illness but added he left Sochi hungry for more. However, he said he doesn’t believe a repeat performance of PyeongChang is possible.

“I need to evolve and be ready to adapt to all the situations and take the principles of how I approached each day from PyeongChang and apply it to Beijing,” said Arendz. (Then) quite literally, see what happens after putting in the performances I believe I am capable of.

P.E.I.'s Mark Arendz is a Team Sobeys athlete and spokesperson for the Feed the Dream Olympic campaign. Arendz competes in his fourth Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing, March 4-13. - Sobeys Inc. Photo

Arendz says his approach in Beijing will be similar to PyeongChang. That includes coming to the start line for each event, knowing he is prepared and ready to execute the race.

“When I cross the line, I want to know I did everything possible,” Then you put your cards down on the table and see who can beat it. Sometimes it means no one can, and other times it means three or four people can.”

Arendz said it’s all about execution when competing and he knows what has to transpire for success before a race. Arendz also understands athletes have to make quick adjustments during races.

For example, he said, it could be a race tactic, wind or weather conditions. Everyone looks to gain that extra second, he said, that could be the difference.

“Seeing that last lap knowing I could win a gold medal in PyeongChang was incredible. I focused on every stride I took and how I had to attack the hill. There is still that secondary play going on in my head – everyone that has helped me, and the community that has been there with me along the journey, has been pretty special.

“A couple of quick glimpses of those really important moments along the way have really defined who I became and allowed me to have that kind of success, winning the Paralympic medals.”

“It allowed me to show off my abilities rather than my disability. That is the approach I took from the very beginning."
- Mark Arendz
Opportunities

Arendz's success has translated to other opportunities, including being chosen as a Team Sobeys athlete and spokesperson for the Feed the Dream Olympic campaign.

“(Sobeys) provides us with the food we need, and every athlete knows that is where performance starts is with the food you have on your plate,” said Arendz. “The Feed The Dream is recognizing and bringing awareness to what is needed.

“It’s not an athlete going out by themselves, but there is that family that supports them, there is that community that supports them and a country.”

Arendz’s accomplishments speak for themselves. The fact he does it in two sports makes his accomplishments all that more impressive.

Arendz said biathlon drew him to Nordic sport.

“It is not just one sport, and you have to get two things right,” said Arendz. “You have to have the shooting right – and there are many opportunities to get it wrong – and you have to get the skiing right.

“You have that ultimate test of being able to put both together on the same day to perform in a biathlon race. That challenge really drove me to greater success.”

Jason Simmonds is a sports editor with the SaltWire Network in Prince Edward Island.

Related articles
See More News
Related articles
See More Stories