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Podium Bid Falls Short for Canada's para-Nordic Sit Skiers at Paralympic Winter Games

Chris Klebl leads Canucks in sixth, Colette Bourgonje places 13th

SOCHI, Russia, March 9, 2014 /CNW/ - It was a frustrating day for Canada's Para-Nordic sit skiers while battling the highly technical course at Sochi's Laura Stadium during the opening day of cross-country ski races at the Paralympic Winter Games.

Chris Klebl, of Canmore, Alta., appeared destined for the podium in the early-goings of the men's 15-kilometre race, but faltered in the final five kilometres where he dropped back into sixth spot. The three-time Paralympian, and first since moving to Canada from the United States, clocked-in at 43:06.9 on a tough day the demanding Nordic venue.

"I'll let you know in a couple of days," said a disappointed Klebl when asked if he was content with the result in the finish area.

Klebl was passed by a flurry of Russians in the final half of the race. The host nation went on to sweep the men's podium.

Roman Petushkov set the time to beat at 40:51.6. Irek Zaripov double-poled his way to the silver medal with a time of 41:55.1, while Aleksandr Davidovich completed the sweep after stopping the clock at 42:08.6.

Two other Canadian men battled the challenging conditions. Quebec City's Sebastien Fortier was the next best Canuck in 18th place. The 27-year-old, two-time Paralympian fought through the difficult conditions to post a time of 51:43.3. Yves Bourque, of Becancour, Que., was 20th at 55:25.4.

"It was a lot more difficult than I expected today. The turns are icy and it was really hard to go fast in the softer snow today," said Fortier. "There was a lot of people on the track and it was tough to choose the right line today. I have had some injuries so I'm not as strong as I would have liked to be right now, but I'm happy to be fit enough to race."

Meanwhile, legendary Paralympian, Colette Bourgonje, was the lone Canadian in the women's 12-kilometre sit ski race. The 10-time Paralympic medallist (six winter and four summer medals) from Saskatoon posted a time of 45:50.3 for 13th place.

"It was a very technical course. I had trouble in every corner and it turns a lot," said the 52-year-old Bourgonje, who has competed in every Winter Paralympics.  "Every day that we have gone out, the conditions are different so it is very difficult. I will need to make some adjustments to my equipment for the rest of the week, but I gave it all I had today."

Lyudmyla Pavlenko, of the Ukraine, put up the time of the day at 38:54.3 to win the women's gold medal. Oksana Masters, of the United States, was second at 39:16.0, while Russia's Svetlana Konovalova rounded out the women's podium in third at 39:49.8.

The para-Nordic events continue on Monday in Sochi with the men's and women's long distance standing and visually impaired cross-country ski races featuring 10-time Paralympic medallist, Brian McKeever.

For more information and complete results, please visit paralympic.ca. 

PHOTOGRAPHY: Media are invited to visit photos.paralympic.ca and create an account to be able to download high-resolution photos of Canadian Paralympic athletes at any time, at no cost. 

For full information about Team Canada at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games, please visit www.paralympic.ca/team-canada.

SOURCE Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC)

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