Three North Americans, count ’em, three, topped the 2014/2015 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Overall World Cup cross-country podiums, ending their seasons on Sunday at IPC World Cup Finals in Surnadal, Norway.
Canada’s 21-year-old Brittany Hudak tallied her third medal of the week on Sunday, taking silver in the women’s 12.5-kilometer biathlon race a day after clinching the women’s overall cross-country title in the standing division by 33 points over Russia’s Ekaterina Rumyantseva.
Hudak placed fourth in Saturday’s 5 k cross-country race then finished second in Sunday’s biathlon distance race, 50.4 seconds behind Ukraine’s Oleksandra Kononova, who won in 39:46.2.
While Kononova missed two — one in each of the last shooting stages — Hudak cleaned every stage except the first, in which she missed one.
“The learning curve has been so huge for me,” Hudak said in a Canadian Para-Nordic team press release.
Two years ago, Canada’s legendary (now-retired) sit skier Colette Bourgonje encouraged her to try skiing while Hudak was working at a Canadian Tire store.
“Having the opportunity to attend national training camps, particularly the New Zealand camp this summer, I have noticed a huge improvement in my technique,” Hudak said. “It has been such an advantage for me to be in the same environment with the high-performance athletes, seeing how the train and learning from them.”
In all, she racked up two golds, two silvers and one bronze medal in IPC cross-country events this season, plus a silver and bronze in biathlon at World Cup Finals.
Hailing from south of the Canadian border, two Americans topped the overall IPC World Cup sitting standings, with Oksana Masters and Andy Soule claiming the cross-country crowns on Saturday, which U.S. Paralympics dubbed as a “three-medal day for Team USA.”
Masters and teammate Lt. Dan Cnossen won the women’s 5 k and men’s 10 k cross-country races, respectively, with the former capping her season with the overall win as well. Throughout this season, Masters earned seven World Cup golds and two silvers, plus a silver and bronze at IPC World Championships in January.
“I felt really good today,” Masters told U.S. Paralympics on Saturday. “It was a hard race, but my skis were fast, and I felt good. This is a great way to end the cross-country season. Everything has been pretty perfect here.”
The 25-year-old former Paralympic rower won the women’s 5 k by 28 seconds over Norway’s Mariann Marthinsen in 14:19, and beat Marthinsen in the overall by 160 points.
On Sunday, Masters placed fifth in the final biathlon event: the 12.5 k sitting. While Germany’s Anja Wicker missed two shots to win in 48:46.5, Masters had a total of eight penalties to finish 5:38.2 behind.
Cnossen won Saturday’s cross-country 10 k sitting in 25:37, edging Russia’s Alexey Bychenok by 3.8 seconds. Soule finished third, 19.8 seconds back, to take the men’s overall cross-country title by 155 points over Bychenok. Cnossen ended up fourth in the overall cross-country standings.
“I was getting updates from the coaches during the race that it was a really tight race between Alexey Bychenok and myself,” Cnossen told U.S. Paralympics on Saturday. “I was really happy for Andy, who came in third and got the World Cup overall win — that is even better. Our team had a great performance today.”
“It is a great feeling and a great finish to the season,” Soule, 35, said after his first podium at World Cup Finals. “This took a lot of hard work by myself, my teammates, my coaches and wax techs. This is just a great end to the season.”
At World Championships, Soule racked up an unprecedented five medals for the U.S., three of which were in cross-country races. Adding to that haul, he totaled four World Cup golds and a bronze this season.
On Sunday, he placed seventh in the 15 k biathlon race with six penalties (1+1+2+2), finishing 4:03.6 behind Germany’s Martin Fleig, who won in 49:32.1. Cnossen was 5.4 seconds off the podium in fourth with five misses (1+2+0+2).
Canada’s Chris Klebl placed fifth in Saturday’s 10 k sitting, 51.3 seconds behind Cnossen. The result helped him secure third overall in the men’s cross-country sitting on the IPC World Cup, 40 points ahead of Cnossen. Klebl did not race on Sunday.
Klebl’s teammate, Mark Arendz finished fifth in the men’s biathlon 15 k standing on Sunday, 3:23.2 behind Ukraine’s Ihor Reptyukh, who won in 42:17.6. While Reptyukh had three penalties (1+0+1+1), Arendz had five (1+1+1+2). The Canadian placed fourth overall in the biathlon World Cup, 161 points behind Reptyukh in third.