Note: This article has been updated to include the most recent information on the 2015 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships according to an IPC Nordic Skiing press release.
This past fall, FasterSkier spoke with Yuriy Gusev, head of the Cable 2015 organizing committee and executive director of Central Cross Country (CXC), about the ongoing preparations to host the upcoming International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Nordic Skiing World Championships in Cable, Wis. It seemed like a long ways off at the time, and now it’s here: being held for the third time in the U.S., for the first time in a decade.
With Cable and the Telemark primed for the event, which includes 135 athletes from 15 countries from Jan. 23-Feb. 1, we had an opportunity to check in with U.S. Paralympics Nordic High Performance Coach Eileen Carey to see how the U.S. team was preparing. The U.S. roster was announced Jan. 9 and includes nine returners (out of 16) from last year’s Paralympics team at the Sochi Winter Games. All but one of them are sit skiers; Omar Bermejo is the lone standing athlete.
The two members of the women’s team found repeated success in Sochi, with Oksana Masters and Tatyana McFadden taking home three combined medals.
Masters became the first female U.S. cross-country skier to win a Paralympic medal in 20 years at the Games, initially earning silver in the 12-kilometer sitting event. She also won bronze in the 5 k cross-country. This season, Masters racked up three medals at the World Cup opener in Finland, winning gold in the 1 k cross-country sprint, and silver in the biathlon 6 k as well as the 5 k cross-country.
In Sochi, McFadden notched silver in the women’s 1 k cross-country sprint, and in the time since, she has continued her domination of the road-marathon circuit. After the ski season ended, McFadden won four world-caliber marathons in Boston, London, Chicago and New York City. It was the second-straight year that McFadden achieved the marathon grand slam in wheelchair racing.
Masters and McFadden missed U.S. nationals because of injury and ilnees, respectively.
“Earlier in the season, Masters had a minor back injury and McFadden had the flu and were forced to miss the last World Cup event and the US Nationals,” Carey explained. “Both are back healthy and will be in the field in Cable.”
On the men’s side, Andy Soule leads a strong men’s team heading into World Championships. A veteran sit skier, Soule is a bronze Paralympic medalist from the 2010 Games in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he shot an unprecedented perfect 50-for-50 in all three biathlon races. In Sochi, Soule finished in the top five in every event he competed in and placed fourth twice (in the 7.5 k biathlon and 15 k biathlon).
He split the number of U.S. sit-ski titles won at this year’s nationals with teammate Lt. Dan Cnossen (both men won two races at Soldier Hollow in Midway, Utah). Cnossen won the men’s sitting short and sprint cross-country races, while he finished as the runner-up to Soule in the long distance cross-country and biathlon sprint races.
FasterSkier: How has the season gone so far?
Eileen Carey: We had a strong opening to our season at the December World Cup races in Finland with a small group of athletes. We followed that with a great U.S. Nationals that brought together our top athletes with developing skiers and biathletes. Those two events showed both the high performance capacity and development focus of our program, both of which are critical to our long-term success.
FS: What is the atmosphere of the team leading to these World Championships on U.S. soil?
EC: Our athletes are becoming students of skiing and biathlon and driving the process of what and how they want to learn. This has created a great atmosphere for our whole program and has energized both athletes and staff. We are excited to take that energy to an event like World Champs, especially being at home. The Cable organizing committee has always been so welcoming and excited to have us and that gives us a great boost as a team.
FS: What are your goals and expectations for this years team?
EC: Our team philosophy is based on the concept that athletes are their own best coaches. Their training and racing has been focused on the idea that there are no “right” ways to do anything. As a result, this season they have gotten really creative and analytical about figuring out what works for them and exploring many different solutions. Our intentions are that bi-products of this exploration are improvements in skill, self-awareness as an athlete, and eventually performance. Our goals and expectations as a program are that our athletes will keep pushing those boundaries and continuing to think of different and perhaps better ways to train and race. Through this continual evolution, I think great performances will follow.
FS: What are your thoughts on this years course? How does this course compare to 2013?
EC: The courses in Cable will be a combination of courses we have skied there in the past, and some new features that will improve the experience for the athletes. We have spent some workouts focused on some of the terrain and technical features we will see there, so I think everyone is excited to be on the snow in Cable and test out what we have been working on.
FS: What events will the team participate in?
EC: We will have athletes competing each race day, with most competing in a combination of biathlon and cross-country races. Eight of our 9 athletes are sit skiers. Omar Bermejo is our only standing skier to make the team and this will be the first time this season that we will all be together, so we are looking forward to being a full team.
“We have a great team of athletes who have taken a very professional approach to training and building upon last season, ”Carey said in a U.S. Paralympics press release. “We are thrilled to get another chance to test out some of our training and racing strategies, ultimately focused on improving in each race. Having the opportunity to do that on home snow is a great bonus for us.”
The opening ceremony will kick off Friday, Jan. 23 and the championships run through Feb. 1.
Saturday, Jan. 24
Biathlon Sprint – Penalty Loop
Sitting: Men 7.5km (3 x 2.5 km) / Women 6.0 km (3 x 2.0 km)
Standing: Men 7.5km (3 x 2.5 km) / Women 6.0 km (3 x 2.0 km)
Visually Impaired: Men 7.5km (3 x 2.5 km) / Women 6.0 km (3 x 2.0 km)
Sunday, Jan. 25
Cross Country Long – Free
Sitting: Men 15 km (5 x 3.0 km) / Women 12 km (4 x 3.0 km)
Standing: Men 20 km (5 x 4.0 km) / Women 15 km (5 x 3.0 km)
Visually Impaired: Men 20 km (5 x 4.0 km) / Women 15 km (5 x 3.0 km)
Tuesday, Jan. 27
Biathlon Middle Distance – Penalty Loop
Sitting: Men 12.5 km (5 x 2.5 km) / Women 10 km (5 x 2.0 km)
Standing: Men 12.5 km (5 x 2.5 km) / Women 10 km (5 x 2.0 km)
Visually Impaired: Men 12.5 km (5 x 2.5 km) / Women 10 km (5 x 2.0 km)
Wednesday, Jan. 28
Cross Country Sprint – Classic
Sitting: Men/Women 0.8 km
Standing: Men/Women 1.2 km
Visually Impaired: Men/Women 1.2 km
Friday, Jan. 30
Biathlon Individual Distance
Sitting: Men 15 km (5 x 3.0 km) / Women 12.5 km (5 x 2.5 km)
Standing: Men 15 km (5 x 3.0 km) / Women 12.5 km (5 x 2.5 km)
Visually Impaired: Men 15 km (5 x 3.0 km) / Women 12.5 km (5 x 2.5 km)
Saturday, Jan. 31
Cross Country Relay – CL/Free/CL/Free
Open: 10 km (4 x 2.5 km)
Mixed: 10 km (4 x 2.5 km)
Sunday, Feb. 1
Cross Country Middle Distance – Classic
Sitting: Men 10 km (4 x 2.5 km) / Women 5 km (2 x 2.5 km)
Standing: Men 10 km (4 x 2.5 km) / Women 5 km (2 x 2.5 km)
Visually Impaired: Men 10 km (4 x 2.5 km) / Women 5 km (2 x 2.5 km)
For updates throughout IPC World Championships, follow FasterSkier’s Para Nordic blog.