The 2017 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Nordic Skiing World Championships concluded this past weekend Feb. 18-19 in Finsterau, Germany with a biathlon sprint and a middle-distance cross-country event. Claiming their second gold medals of the week were Oksana Masters, of the U.S., and Canada’s Mark Arendz. Race recap and results below.
The U.S. Paralympics Nordic Team’s Oksana Masters is plenty used to winning cross-country events. She ended last season undefeated in every cross-country race and earned World Championships titles in both the sprint and long-distance events earlier in the championships in Finsterau.
But in biathlon, the 27 year old had yet to win a gold. However, that didn’t stop her from racing to a World Championships title in the women’s 6-kilometer sitting biathlon sprint on Saturday.
“I am completely shocked,” Masters said to media outlets. “I entered this race with no expectations. I went from not being sure if I was going to be able to race the last two days to winning my first gold medal in biathlon. I’m so excited! I cannot wait to let this all soak in and race as hard as I can for one more race. It has been an amazing experience.”
Despite feeling ill and not deciding until after her warmup on Saturday that she would indeed enter the race, Masters won in a time of 20:56.2 minutes, with two penalties (1+1). Finishing behind her in second was Germany’s Anja Wicker, who completed the course in 21:21.0 after one miss (1+0). In third after three misses (1+2) was Lidziya Hrafeyeva of Belarus, who finished in 21:48.0.
Ukraine’s Maksym Yarovyi won the men’s 7 k sitting biathlon sprint, finishing in 21:36.1 after just one penalty (1+0). Shooting clean and placing second on the day was Yarovyi’s Ukrainian teammate, Taras Rad (21:48.9). German skier Martin Fleig finished in third in 21:48.9 after also hitting all of his targets as well.
Just missing the podium for the second time this week was American Andy Soule in fourth. Soule missed one shot (0+1) and finished in 22:59.1. Behind him in fifth was his U.S. teammate Aaron Pike, who finished in 23:06.5 after shooting clean.
Two Canadians also competed in the event, with Derek Zaplotinsky finishing 10th in 24:29.4 after shooting clean, and Cameron Collin placed 12th in 25:13.1 after three misses (2+1).
If Canada’s Mark Arendz had any regret about his missed shot at gold last Thursday, he found redemption in Saturday’s 7.5 k standing biathlon sprint.
“I refocused on a new day, new race,” Arendz wrote in an email to FasterSkier of his approach to Saturday’s competition following Thursday’s silver place finish. “I knew the margin of error would be small in such a tight race. Going into the race my biggest was on recovery and preparation for Saturday’s race. The body felt great before, during and after the race. I was excited to have that feeling of renewed energy back in the legs.”
Arendz shot 100 percent and raced to first place, earning his second gold medal for the week in a time of 18:30.0.
I didn’t make any changes to my shooting,” Arendz added. “I considered it but in end went with what has been successful and working for me.”
Finishing behind Arendz in a time of 18:32.6 and also shooting clean, was Ukraine’s Ihor Reptyukh in second place. Bronze went to France’s Benjamin Daviet, who clocked in at 18:57.2 after just one miss (0+1).
In the women’s standing 6 k biathlon sprint, Ukraine once again claimed the win, with Liudmyla Liashenko emerging victorious with clean shooting in 18:25.0. Her teammate Oleksandra Kononova placed second (19:15.2) with two misses (2+0). Shooting clean for the final podium spot in third (19:24.1) was Iryna Bui, also of Ukraine.
Canadians Emily Young and Brittany Hudak claimed eighth and 10th respectively. Young completed the course in 21:11.0 with one miss (0+1), while Hudak clocked in at 22:30.9 with two misses (2+0).
In the women’s 6 k visually impaired biathlon sprint, Ukraine was again victorious with Oksana Shyshkova claiming first in 20:15.7 after three missed shots.
Second place went to Germany’s Clara Klug, who completed the course in 20:38.8 after shooting 100 percent.
“It’s just overwhelming,” Klug said, according to an IPC press release. “I said I wanted to win three Filus (the mascot of this event) and now I’ve got three. I love it here in Finsterau. A big thank you to the team and my guide Martin Hartl, who yells a lot at me on the course but it really helps!”
Ukraine put two on the podium with Olga Prylutska taking third in 21:42.3 with three misses (1+2).
Marking the fourth win for Ukraine on the day was Anatolii Kovalevskyi, taking gold in the men’s 7.5 k visually impaired biathlon sprint. Kovalevskyi completed the course in a time of 19:55.9 for the win, missing just one shot (1+0).
Belarus’s Vasili Shaptsiaboi earned silver, finishing in 20:15.4 after two misses (2+0). Rounding out the podium and taking bronze was France’s Anthony Chalencon, who clocked in at 20:37.2 after one missed shot (0+1).
Day 6 Results: Women’s 6 k biathlon sitting | Men’s 7 k biathlon sitting | Women 6 k biathlon standing | Men 7.5 k biathlon standing | Women biathlon 6 k visually impaired | Men 7.5 k biathlon visually impaired
With seven races over the course of nine days and only two days off, the IPC World Championships competitions were bound to test even the most accomplished of IPC athletes, including Canada’s Brian McKeever.
“We had four races in five days so it was a lot about survival today,” McKeever said after Sunday’s race, according to a Canadian Para-Nordic Skiing press release.
McKeever didn’t just survive the final race, he won it. The 37-year-old 18-time World Champion racked up his 19th career gold in the men’s 10 k visually impaired cross-country race in 22:15.1, besting both Thomas Clarion of France and Yury Holub of Belarus.
“Our performances are showing that things are moving back in the right direction after being sick around Christmas. [My guide] Graham is in incredible shape right now, and a step above me which is important for us,” McKeever said.
Clarion ended the day in second, finishing in a time of 22:45.6, while Holub took third in a time of 22:48.1.
For the second day in a row, Shyshkova earned gold, winning the women’s 7.5 k visually impaired event in 20:23.2. Claiming silver was Sviatlana Sakhanenka of Belarus in 21:05.9, while bronze went to Austria’s Carina Edlinger in a time of 21:11.5.
Continuing her dominance in the women’s sitting field, Masters claimed her fifth individual medal, fourth gold, on Sunday, winning the women’s 7 k sitting cross-country event in a time of 14:15.5.
Finishing behind Masters in a time of 14:30.5 for the silver medal was Germany’s Andrea Eskau. Norwegian Birgit Skarstein rounded out the podium in third, clocking in at 14:42.4.
Finding the podium once again after two fourth place finishes was Soule, who earned bronze in the men’s 7 k sitting cross-country event. Soule’s time of 20:10.4 landed him third place, just behind Belarus’s Dzmitry Loban in second (19:53.3) and Ukraine’s Yarovyi in first (19:39.4)
The win was Yarovyi’s second in a row.
“I am really happy because this is my personal best result for gold medals at a World Championships,” Yarovyi said according to an IPC press release. “I can’t express my feelings, I am just really happy.”
Also in the men’s 7 k sitting race, Pike raced to eighth (20:58.1) for eighth place, Canada’s Zaplotinsky placed 12th (21:39.8) and his teammate Sebastien Fortier finished just behind him in 13th (21:43.8).
Adding to his growing medal count, Canada’s Arendz secured his fifth medal of the week in the final men’s 10 k standing cross-country competition, racing to third place in a time of 23:08.9.
“I went into today’s race not sure what would happen given it was my sixth race in nine days. I started strong and kept it going for as long as I could,” Arendz said, according to a team press release. “It was a tight race. I threw everything I had left out there.”
Placing ahead of Arendz in first and second respectively was France’s Daviet and Ukraine’s Reptyukh. Daviet clocked in at 21:52.9 for the win, while Reptyukh finished in 22:22.9 for second place.
In the women’s 7.5 k standing cross-country event, all three top spots went to Ukraine, with Kononova taking gold in 19:30.7. Finishing behind her in 19:46.6 for second place was Liashenko, while third went to Iuliia Batenkova (20:20.3).
Clocking in at 21:30.5 was Canada’s Young in seventh and rounding out the Canadians women’s team was Hudak in 10th, after finishing in 23:31.7.