2018 Winter Paralympics (PyeongChang, South Korea): 12/15 k sitting cross-country races
It was a gold, silver and bronze day for the U.S. Paralympics Nordic team on Sunday at the 2018 Paralympics in PyeongChang, as Kendall Gretsch raced to her second-straight victory in as many races, Dan Cnossen took silver and Oksana Masters claimed bronze in the cross-country distance events.
A day after achieving a historic bronze for Canada in a biathlon sit-ski event, Collin Cameron led his country in fifth in Sunday’s 15-kilometer sitting cross-country race.
Gretsch, a Paralympic rookie who won the sitting biathlon sprint to open the Paralympics, also won the women’s 12 k sitting cross-country race on Sunday in 38:15.9 minutes, 34.5 seconds clear of Germany’s Andrea Eskau in second, while Masters followed 49 seconds back in third.
“For cross-country, I was pretty unsure going in here,” said the 25-year-old Gretsch, according to a U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing press release. “I knew that since our last World Cup I had improved a lot, but you never know until you race. Just happy with how things went today and I was able to put together another good race.”
“It’s a very humbling experience being able to hear your anthem,” she said of her second gold medal. “Puts everything into perspective. Knowing that you’re here not just here for yourself but for your country, it’s amazing.”
For Masters, who is recovering from an elbow injury, it was her second medal after taking silver in Saturday’s biathlon sprint.
“I’m just so happy to be on the podium,” Masters told U.S. Paralympics. “I was a little worried on the long distance considering I haven’t done intensity in three weeks. It definitely is a very painful, rude awakening to how painful the sport is. I’m happy to be on the podium.”
She described the pain in her elbow as “extremely excruciating. It feels like there’s just a saw going at your bone 24/7, especially hammering up the climbs,” Masters said. “I had a spill over there through the stadium, but mind over matter.”
Ukraine’s Maksym Yarovyi won the men’s 15 k sitting in 41:37.0, and Cnossen, who had taken gold in the men’s sitting biathlon sprint, placed second, 43.1 seconds back. Sin Eui-hyun claimed South Korea’s first medal of the Games in third (+51.9) ahead of China’s Zheng Peng in fourth (+1:18.5) and Canada’s Cameron in fifth (+2:09.0).
“I’ve already exceeded my expectations,” Cnossen, 37, said of his second Paralympic medal in as many days. “I’m very proud to represent the U.S. Today, I dug as deep as I could and went as hard as I could, and regardless of where I ended up on the result, it is my success to go as hard as I could.”
“It was really soft out there, but the skis were still fast,” Cameron, 29, said, according to a Canadian team press release. “The skis have been awesome both days – the guys are working their butts off back in the wax room.”
Cameron explained his goal for Sunday’s race was to “start steady and be comfortable, to get rid of the bugs from yesterday’s race because I was pretty tight.
“I was able to loosen up as I went along, which allowed me to dig a little deeper today,” he continued. “It’s tough to go from biathlon to this event. It is a totally different mindset for pacing, a totally different game. I wasn’t event thinking about [yesterday’s medal] I just wanted to build off it and take that momentum with me the rest of the week. Today was a different day and I’m happy with how I was able to perform.”
Also for Canada, Chris Klebl, who won gold in the 10 k sitting event at the 2014 Paralympics, finished eighth (+2:25.6), Derek Zaplotinsky followed in ninth (+2:42.6), Sebastien Fortier finished 18th (+5:01.0), Ethan Hess 24th (+10:37.1), and Yves Bourque 25th (+11:35.7)
In the women’s sitting race, Canada’s Cindy Ouellet, a 29-year-old Paralympic wheelchair basketball player, placed 18th (+11:37.3).
“This is my first race over five kilometres and it was tough,” Ouellet said, according to the press release. “Basketball is all stop and go, but endurance is much different. I just need more races.”
For the U.S., Andy Soule placed 11th (+2:59.1) and Sean Halsted finished 22nd (+7:18.0).
Paralympic racing continues Monday with the men’s and women’s standing and visually impaired cross-country long-distance events, starting at 10 a.m. Korea time on Monday (7 p.m. EDT on Sunday).