Article by: Doug Gallant
The loss of an arm can be a devastating injury, but Paralympian Mark Arendz has never allowed that injury, the result of a tragic farm accident at the age of seven, to hold him back.
His love of sport and competition propelled him forward and continues to do so today.
For Mark Arendz, the pursuit of excellence is a guiding principle of life.
At the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi he earned a Silver and a Bronze medal in Biathlon races. Four years later in PyeongChang, he set a new Canadian record of six medals from a single Winter Games. He became a Paralympic Champion in the Biathlon individual, with a Silver and a Bronze in the other two Biathlon competitions.
In Cross Country, Arendz added a Silver from the Relay and two Bronze medals from Cross Country events. He ended the 2018 Games as Team Canada's Flag Bearer at the Closing Ceremony. Just last month in Sweden he won multiple medals at the Para Nordic World Championships. Out of six races, he won four medals, three of them were gold and the fourth was silver.
Arendz’s journey from a farm in rural P.E.I. to the medal podium began in 2002 when he watched a biathlon event at the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City. “That’s where my brother and I both got that interest.”
The only way to do a biathlon then was through the cadet program and the only place to do that was at the Brookvale Provincial Ski Park. That park, now called the Mark Arendz Provincial Ski Park, was the site of the first-ever biathlon at the Canada Games in 1991.
“It was the only place at the time on the Island where you could train for both cross-country skiing and shooting. That park became my home for the next two years. It nourished our passion and our excitement for the sport.”
Within a few months of starting to train for Biathlon, Arendz who had already been a competitive athlete in track and field, cross-country skiing, soccer and other sports, was already competing provincially for the nordic sport. The following year he was competing regionally and not long after that on a national level.
“The time scale has changed a little bit,” Arendz says. “Every year the provincials would be exciting, then as I developed the nationals would exciting, and then it was the World Cup, World Championships and now I’m at the point where my excitement still comes from the World Championships but also the big games every four years.” He says every big event is a stepping stone towards the next big event.
Never one to let anything hold him back, Arendz competed in Sweden just months after having surgery on both heels.
“It was always a case of having the surgery, letting the recovery happen then slowly building into training and competition. There were always some question marks about whether I would be fit enough and healthy enough to compete.”
But everything came together and he was able to compete at the first World Cup event in December and further bettered his performance in Sweden in January. “I had hoped this success would come eventually but I did not expect it to come this year.”
In P.E.I. this week for the Canada Winter Games he’s taken in a number of events at Brookvale and hopes to take in some curling and a few other sports before he leaves.
Next week, Arendz heads to the World Cup finals in Salt Lake City where both cross-country and biathlon events are scheduled.
That wraps up the season and then there’s some much-deserved downtime before the next World Cup season begins.
He’ll use that time to do some skiing, do some shooting and get on the bike again.
Arendz trains now at the Canmore Nordic Centre in Alberta where he’s lived since 2008.