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Natalie Wilkie – Paralympic Champion

March 15, 2022

Hello Rancho community! 

In March I competed at the Paralympic Games and brought home 4 medals for Canada! It was an amazing experience to compete in Beijing and find success on the world stage, but the journey to get there was long and anything but straightforward. Let me tell you all about it. 

This winter has been one of the most unusual ski seasons I’ve ever done. Normally, I find myself on the road for several months every year as my team travels to training camps and competitions around the world, but this winter, we opted to train from home to stay safe and healthy. This meant that we had almost no races the entire season! It was nerve-wracking not knowing how we compared to our competitors, but the only thing I could do was train harder and trust in the process. 

On February 26th, I boarded the charter flight to Beijing with the rest of Team Canada, and after a very long travel we made it to the Paralympic village of Zhangjikou where, finally, I felt like I could let out a big breath. I had made it to China, I was still healthy, and I was (hopefully) ready to compete. 

Of course, I had packed a big bag of Rancho Vignola products to keep me fueled at the Paralympics. When traveling across time zones, it’s important to have snacks on hand so you can help your body to quickly adjust to the new meal times, and also to keep you from getting hungry on long flights. Once in Zhangjikou, I brought all my favourites with me to ski: dried mango, cashews, almonds, walnuts, cranberries, and a bit of chocolate too. My trail mix tasted far better than most of the bland snacks offered at the ski venue! 

After a week of skiing the courses, it was time to race. The Opening Ceremonies kicked off on a Friday night and the very next morning we got up bright and early for our first competition, a biathlon 6km. I unfortunately had a few rifle issues which dropped me to 15th place, and while this was very disappointing, I needed to refocus quickly for my next race, a classic 15km. Luckily, I was able to bounce back and I finished my race with an unexpected gold medal! Two days later, I won another gold medal in the skate sprint race. 

By now, the daytime temperatures were reaching 10ᵒC with full sun, and the snow was quickly turning to slush. My next race, a 10km skate, felt like I was skiing through mashed potatoes! I skied my hardest and was able to finish with the silver medal. Before I knew it, I had one last race to go: the team sprint. I competed with my teammates Collin Cameron, Emily Young, and Mark Arendz, and together we won the bronze medal! 

I was so proud to represent Canada at my second Paralympic Games, and even prouder to do it alongside my amazing teammates, coaches, and support staff. And of course, I want to send out a huge thank you to Rancho Vignola for supporting me this season! 

Thank you for following along my journey. Until next time, 


Originally published 2022/03/15

It’s hard to believe that I’m going to my second Paralympic Games in March! The last four years have absolutely flown by and it’s crazy to think that I was just starting out on my journey in PyeongChang 2018. 

Hi, I’m Natalie Wilkie, and I’m a Paralympic Champion and three-time medallist in the sport of Para Nordic Skiing. I compete with only one pole and have been on the national team since 2018. With the 2022 Beijing Paralympics just around the corner, I thought it might be time to introduce myself and give you an update! 

My team and I will be boarding a charter flight to Beijing on February 25th, which gives us exactly one week to practice our race courses and get used to the 15 hour time difference we will face in China. Talk about jet lag! One week does not seem like a lot of time to prepare for the biggest competition in the world, but with hundreds of training hours behind me I know that I will hit the race trails in Zhangjiakou as prepared as I can possibly be. 

The ski area itself boasts an elevation of 1700 metres, and because of this I will be doing a lot of high-altitude training over the next few weeks to help my body adapt. I am currently at a team training camp at Nickel Plate Nordic which offers an altitude of 1800-2000 metres – more than enough height to prepare my body. There is so much snow here and so many awesome trails to adventure on! 

In the final push to the Games it is essential that I prioritize recovery and proper nutrition to keep my body performing at its best. One of my favourite ways to fuel for a long or hard training session is to pack a snack of Rancho Vignola’s Deluxe Trail Mix combined with extra almonds, cashews, and even dried mango. During a three hour ski this delicious blend is a life saver. I get extra hungry when I train at high elevation so having a nutritious and sustainable snack on hand is a must. To be completely honest, I will admit I have even eaten a handful of trail mix as lunch when I’m running super late between training and appointments. But I can say from firsthand experience that it was filling and tasty! 

I do a lot of baking with Rancho products as well. My favourite thing to bake is a Cranberry Almond Crumble because it is delicious as a snack, and even better as a dessert paired with vanilla ice cream. I also bake power bars, muffins, and even cookies to bring along on training camps when I just want some delicious (but still healthy) foods to snack on between workouts. 

I will be packing as many Rancho products as I can into my Beijing-bound suitcase and carry-on bag so that I am well stocked for travel snacks and can have a little taste of home while I’m away. 

If you’d like to follow along with my races, my competition schedule is as follows: 

March 4: Opening ceremonies 

March 6: Biathlon Sprint 6km 

March 8: Classic Long 15km 

March 9: Biathlon Middle 10km 

March 10: Skate Sprint 1km 

March 12: Biathlon Long 12.5km 

March 13: Skate Middle 10km 

March 14: Team Relay 4×2.5km 

For a more detailed schedule including times, please check out Beijing 2022 – Paralympic Winter Games Competitive Schedule.pdf. If you’d like to livestream or watch replays of the Paralympic events, CBC is an easy website to navigate and it will be streaming many hours of content. 

I’m very excited to represent Canada at my second Paralympic Games, and I hope that you will watch and cheer me on! You can follow me on Facebook or Instagram (natalie_wilkie_) or if you’d like to reach out to me directly, you can find me at my Beijing email bestwishesnatalie@gmail.com

Happy skiing! Natalie 

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