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What a Year!

It’s hard to believe everything that has occurred over the past twelve months. The year 2018 has truly been an extraordinary collection of experiences from January 1st to today. Countless once-in-a-lifetime moments scattered throughout the year. There have been so many moments that make this year one of the most memorable for me. There were fantastic performances, record-setting accomplishments and tremendous honours, countless firsts, and simple achievements; they all were a part of my 2018. As I reflect upon the year, there is constantly something new I remember. It is not easy, but I try not to forget the little memories. In the future, it may be remembering those little things that will create the next huge success.

Competing in Vuokatti for the first World Cup of the 2018-2019 Season. PC: Fiiliksiajahetkia

Personal achievements were abundant, and I’m not just talking about March. A big part of the success in March were the years that proceeded, where I went out and trained each day focused on improving. Not every day I reached my goal, and so it was about going out the following morning to try again. I joked going into PyeongChang that I had trained four years to ski a second faster after I finished second in Sochi by 0.7sec. I knew I had to improve by more than one second. The time of 0.7sec is a minuscule amount, but it perhaps had the largest impact of what drove me in the lead-up to PyeongChang. When I was cold and wet and still had an hour to train, that tiny reminder helped me through it. When I didn’t think I could do another interval, it was that emotional memory, that I refused to feel again, that pushed me to another interval.

The only way to achieve the greatest goals is to achieve hundreds of smaller ones along the way. Like hitting all the targets in a workout or intensity. Going that little bit further with each max effort interval. Or lifting a new personal best in the weight room. There are also times where accomplishing something new, not necessarily a goal is an achievement. It was in 2018 that I attempted a Back Squat for the first time. Previously I only lifted using a Front Squat, as it was easier to balance the bar on my shoulders. Now I primarily Back Squat and with more weight than I had ever before. Another example is after many years and several different activities; I finally got the better of my coach in a cross-country running race this Fall. These smaller achievements along the journey have an impact and build to create the final success.

Receiving the Order of Prince Edward Island from Lieutenant Governor Antoinette Perry. PC: Order of PEI

Throughout 2018 I have had the incredible privilege to receive some astonishing honours. Representing Canada as a member of the Canadian Paralympic Team at my third Games. Named as Team Canada’s Flag-bearer at the Closing Ceremonies, on top of that to receive the flag from my friend and teammate Brian McKeever. The renaming of the Brookvale Provincial Park. This provincial park was where my dream began; now I can only hope other dreams begin on the same snow as mine did. Becoming a Member of the Order of Prince Edward Island has been remarkable. I try to represent my community, my province, and country with the Maple Leaf on my chest. In receiving the Order, I see what it means to the community what I do; I couldn’t ask for anything more. Then there was the Canadian Paralympic Committee’s announcement that I was the Male Athlete of the Year. To cap off the year, The Guardian named my success and journey the Newsmaker of 2018.

Though the competition season is only in its beginnings, success at the December World Cup was a fantastic way to begin a season, but end this incredible year. Winning my very first Cross-Country World Cup race, it has taken a long time to achieve this. It has only been the past few years where I finally was gaining the belief in my ability to classic ski. With each success, my confidence grew. I think it started at the World Championships in 2015. I struggled for results at those Worlds, but it was the final race where I finished a close fourth in a 10km Classic (which would be my best result the event). That result sparked my belief that I could become one of the best classic skiers. That belief grew in March of 2017 at the test event in PyeongChang, where I was again fourth. The result wasn’t the confidence it was that on the upcoming Games course I had led two out of three laps. An untimely fall in the third lap dropped my result, but I had the confidence that I would be a contender a year later. The next memorable classic race was in Oberried in January of this year where I finished second. Then a few weeks later I had back to back classic races that proved to me I can be a contender. At the Paralympics, I had the tough learning experience of the Classic Sprint and the consistency of the Classic 10km, both coming home with a Bronze medal. I am now hungry for classic, and so I fed that hungry with a win in the opening race of the season.

I don’t know if I could ever top 2018, but I sure do love a challenge! As the year comes to a close, I appreciate taking a moment to reflect upon 2018. With all the successes that were part of 2018, I can’t help but feel the drive to push further. In 2018, I accomplished many goals and exceeded many others. Now those successes are the benchmark that I aim to surpass. Upon reflecting on 2018, I also look forward to seeing what I may achieve in 2019 and beyond! I want to share with you all a heartfelt Thank You for the support I have received not only in 2018 but for the many years before that. Over the years there have been so many that have contributed to my success. A few that have been there since the very first day of this journey are no longer with us; I hope that I can honour their memory through what I do. Without your support, what 2018 has become would not have been possible. As 2019 is about to start, I hope that with your continued support we can reach many great new heights!

Mark Arendz

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