• Alex 50km Lahti Champion
    • Alberta athlete shooting for podium at 2018 Winter Paralympics

      October 10, 2017

      A blanket of snow in early October is seldom a reason to celebrate.

      But a dump of 10 centimetres covering the ski trails at the Strathcona Wilderness Centre, east of Edmonton, earlier this week left Derek Zaplotinsky positively giddy.

      "This is really exciting. Winter is just around the corner," beamed the 32 year old.

      Derek Zaplotinsky is competing in paralympic cross-country skiing and biathlon. (John Robertson/CBC)

      For the para-nordic skier, it means more time to prepare for the Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea in March.

      "I've got a lot of training to do before the games; the earlier the better for me."

      The resident of Smoky Lake, 115 kilometres northeast of Edmonton, has been training for the last three years.

      When the flakes don't fall, he straps an off-road skateboard to his sit ski.

      The innovation is part of what Zaplotinsky calls a 'challenging journey.'

      Eleven years ago he was motocross racing in Lloydminster and another dirt bike landed on him leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

      Zaplotinsky took four years to adjust to his new reality before deciding to return to sport, first as a para-cyclist and then as a cross-country skier.

      Enter Bjorn Taylor the services specialist at the Strathcona Wilderness Centre and someone who's been involved with the paralympics for the past 17 years.

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