GeneralNewsPara NordicRacingAnother Gold for Masters; Historic Relay Medal for Canada; McKeever Wins 20 k at IPC World Champs

Avatar Gabby NaranjaFebruary 17, 2017
American Oksana Masters (c) after winning her second-straight cross-country race of 2017 IPC World Championships on Thursday in Finsterau, Germany. She is joined on the podium by Norway’s Birgit Skarstein (l) in second and Germany’s Andrea Eskau in third. (Photo: U.S. Paralympics)

After a rest day, Paralympic athletes returned to the nordic venue in Finsterau, Germany, for Days 3, 4, and 5 of the 2017 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Nordic Skiing Championships. Long-distance biathlon races took place Tuesday, cross-country relays on Wednesday and individual cross-country races on Thursday.

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At the finish of Tuesday’s 15-kilometer individual biathlon race, Canada’s Mark Arendz could only think about one thing: his miss. But later, with his second 2017 World Championships medal, this one silver, around his neck after finishing in  39:21.9 minutes, the miss in his final stage (0+0+0+1) was no longer on his mind.

Left to right: Canada’s Mark Arendz, France’s Benjamin Daviet and Norway’s Nils-Erik Ulset on the podium for the men’s 15 k biathlon standing event held on Tuesday, Feb. 14 at the 2017 IPC World Nordic Skiing Championships in Finsterau, Germany. (Photo: Robin McKeever/Twitter)

“After crossing the finish line, all I could initially think about was the single miss (in shooting), and the fact I let the gold slip through my fingers,” Arendz said, according to a Canadian Para-Nordic Skiing press release. “But I quickly warmed up to the fact that I had won a World Championship silver medal.”

Finishing ahead of Arendz for first place was France’s Benjamin Daviet who also shot 19-for-20 and covered the course in time of 38:33.7.

“I am very happy and honoured. This is great and what I came here for,” Daviet said according to an IPC press release. “I will not celebrate because there are many races ahead. I hope to win more medals in Finsterau.”

Norwegian Nils Erik Ulset claimed the final podium spot, finishing third in a time of 40:26.7 after two penalties (1+0+1+0).

In the women’s 12.5 k standing biathlon event, Ukraine’s Liudmyla Liashenko came away with the win. She missed just one shot (1+0+0+0) and finished in a time of 39:10.0.

“I am really happy. I want to dedicate this triumph to all my family, friends and all who have supported me all along this journey,” Liashenko said according to an IPC press release.

In her first podium appearance, Japan’s Momoko Dekijima claimed second in 42:49.3 after two misses (1+1+0+0). Third place went to Ukraine’s Iryna Bui, who finished in 43:53.1 with three penalties (0+2+0+1).

Canada’s Brittany Hudak raced to fifth with a single miss (0+1+0+0), finishing in 44:14.9.

Racking up another gold medal on his home turf, Germany’s Martin Fleig took the win in the men’s 15 k sitting biathlon race in 44:39.4 with one miss (0+0+1+0).

“I did not expect this,” Fleig said according to an IPC press release. “I had a good feeling in the morning but could not imagine the race would be so perfect. It is unbelievable that now I am a two-time world champion. It is awesome.”

Earning silver behind Fleig was Taras Rad of Ukraine, who had four penalties (2+1+0+1) and finished in 48:01.3. Trygve Steinar Larsen of Norway earned bronze, finishing in 49:07.9 with three penalties (2+0+0+1).

Just missing the podium with a career-best fourth was American Aaron Pike, who finished in 51:10.2 with five penalties (1+0+1+3). Canada’s Derek Zaplotinsky placed just behind Pike in fifth for his personal best, finishing in 53:28.1 with four misses as well (0+1+2+1).

Behind them, American Andy Soule finished in seventh in 54:26.7 with nine penalties (2+2+2+3).

Right to left: American Oksana Masters, Germany’s Anja Wicker and Ukraine’s Lidziya Hrafeyeva on top of the podium for the women’s 12.5 k sitting biathlon event on Tuesday at the 2017 IPC World Nordic Skiing Championships in Finsterau, Germany. (Photo: Oksana Masters/Twitter)

Germany earned another victory at home in the women’s 12.5 k sitting biathlon event, with Anja Wicker returning to the podium, this time in first place.

“I am super happy, my biggest dream came true. I was hoping this would happen, it was a perfect day for me,” Wicker said according to an IPC press release.  “Whilst I was still competing, I heard that Martin [Fleig] had already won gold and that motivated me to do the same.”

Wicker finished in 43:07.3 with one miss (0+0+1+0). Behind her in second place was Belarus’s Lidziya Hrafeyeva, who finished in 46:05.2 after three penalties (0+2+1+0).

American Oksana Masters also returned to the podium for her first biathlon medal of the week, finishing in 46:43.7 with four misses (2+2+0+0).

Earning the gold medal in the men’s 15 k visually impaired biathlon race was Vasili Shaptsiaboi of Belarus, who finished in 40:47.3 with just one miss (0+0+0+1). Ukraine took the final two podium spots, with Anatolii Kovalevskyi earning silver in 41:55.2 and one miss (0+1+0+0) and his teammate Vitaliy Lukyanenko finishing just behind him for bronze in 42:21.2, also with one penalty (1+0+0+0).

Ukraine’s Oksana Shyshkova finally found her gold on Tuesday, winning the women’s visually impaired 12.5 k biathlon event after shooting clean and finishing in a time of 38:26.6.

“After winning two silvers in Finsterau, I am happy to finally take gold,” Shyshkova said according to an IPC press release. “Now I have to focus on the next events, do my job, give my best and the results will come as a consequence.”

Silver went to Germany’s Clara Klug in a time of 43:58.2 with two missed shots (0+0+0+2), while Ukraine’s Olga Prylutska earned bronze in a time of 45:16.0 after six misses (1+4+0+1).

Day 3 results: Men’s 15 k standing | Women’s 12.5 k standing | Men’s 15 k sitting | Women’s 12.5 k sitting |  Men’s 15 k visually impaired | Women’s 12.5 k visually impaired

Day 4

Wednesday, the fourth day of racing at the 2017 IPC World Nordic Skiing Championships was marked by mixed and open relays. The U.S. did not field a team, as no standing American athletes are present at this competition series. Canada entered a team in the open relay event.

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Canada made history on Wednesday earning its first World Championships relay medal with Brian McKeever, Emily Young and Arendz.

McKeever, a visually impaired racer, started first. He tagged off to Young, a standing skier, and Arendz, also in the standing category, and back to McKeever. The quartet finished third in  24:53.4 just 57.5 seconds away from the win.

“It is pretty awesome to have such a great result today with the boys, and finally snag my first World Championship medal,” Young said, according to a team press release.

Young was one of the only women racing amidst the top teams.

“Being one of the only girls out there, it was tough to ski against the men’s field but I gave my best effort, and that was all I could do,” Young said, according to a CCC press release. “I just had to remember to ski my race, and know that I would likely fall behind a bit. I skied the fastest so far on this course. It was a very exciting race and I am very proud of the team.”

The win went to France in a time of 23:55.9, with standing skier Daviet leading the team, followed by visually impaired skier Anthony Chalencon, Daviet again and then standing skier, Thomas Clarion.

Norway took second place, 23.8 seconds behind France, with standing skier Ulset racing the first leg for the team, standing skier Hakon Olsrud taking the second leg, Ulset the third and visually impaired skier Eirik Bye anchoring the team.

In the mixed 4 x 2.5 k relay, it was Ukraine’s team comprised of visually impaired skier Iurii Utkin, who skied the first leg, followed by the three standing skiers Liashenko, Iuliia Batenkova, and Oleksandra Kononova. The Ukrainian team finished in a time of 26:56.5 for the win.

“This is a really good result, we made a huge effort to achieve this,” Ukrainian head coach Andriy Nesterenko said according to an IPC press release.

Sweden earned silver, with standing skier Helene Ripa and visually impaired skier Zebastian Modin racing for the team. The duo completed the event in a time of 27:17.5, just 21 seconds back from first place.

The final mixed relay podium spot went to Belarus, with sit skier Dzmitry Loban leading the first leg, followed by visually impaired racer Sviatlana Sakhanenka. Sit skier Valiantsina Shyts raced the third leg, and visually impaired skier Mikita Ladesau anchored the team to finish in a time of 28:12.3.

Day 4 results: Mixed relay | Open relay

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Canada’s Brian McKeever (third from r) with his guide Graham Nishikawa (third from left) after winning his second medal of 2017 IPC World Championships and 18th career World Championships gold on Feb. 16 in Finsterau, Germany. (Photo: Robin McKeever/Twitter)

Day 5

Just four days after she earned her first World Championships gold, Masters, of the U.S. Paralympics Nordic A-team, repeated the feat on Thursday, earning her second gold medal of the week.

Masters, 27, raced to first place in the women’s 12 k sitting cross-country event, finishing in 36:01.0. She outlasted Norway’s Birgit Skarstein, who finished second in 36:51.7, as well as Germany’s Andrea Eskau in third (37:00.0).

“I had some nerves going into the race today, but I used them to motivate me,” Masters said, according to a U.S. Paralympics press release. “I felt good and am really happy with how today went.”

In the men’s 15 k sitting cross-country event, Ukraine’s Maksym Yarovyi took the win, finishing in 40:32.4. Eui Hyun Sin of South Korea earned silver, finishing in 40:56.7, while Germany’s Fleig nabbed the the final podium spot in third (41:05.4).

Racing for the U.S., Soule narrowly missed the podium in fourth place, finishing in 41:36.4. Two Canada’s Collin Cameron placed seventh in 42:12.1 and Sebastien Fortier was 10th in 44:29.0.

Germany’s Carina Edlinger claimed gold in the women’s 15 k visually impaired event, ahead of Ukraine’s Shyshkova and Prylutska. Edlinger finished in a time of 55:40.1 for the win, Shyshkova  in 57:11.9 and Prylutska in 1:00:01.8.

Racking up his 18th World Championships gold on Thursday was Canada’s 37-year-old McKeever, who won the men’s 20 k visually impaired race in 57:35.4.

“Graham skied really, really well today,” McKeever said of his guide, Graham Nishikawa, according to a team press release. “In fact he put me in an uncomfortable place for a large portion of the race, and I may have done the same for him in spots. There are different sections where we felt really good, and then others poorly. You are just comfortable with certain terrain, but it was really, really hot today and that just makes it tough to be relaxed when it is like that. It is a constant mental battle.”

Finishing behind McKeever in second was Sweden’s Modin in 1:00:24.6. Norway’s Bye claimed the final spot in third (1:00:58.8).

In the women’s 15 k standing cross-country race, Ukraine’s Kononova took the win, completing the course in a time of 51:56.9. Her Ukrainian teammate, Batenkova earned silver, finishing in  53:38.1, while Liashenko rounded out the all-Ukranian podium in third (53:59.4).

Finishing just off the podium in fourth was Canada’s Young, after completing the course in 54:21.3. Behind her in fifth was her Canadian teammate Hudak, finishing in 55:53.9.

Ukraine earned another gold, this time on the men’s side, with Ihor Reptyukh taking first place in the men’s 20 k standing cross-country event. Reptyukh finished in 58:03.1, while Finland’s lkka Tuomisto placed just behind him in second (58:39.1). Third went to Yoshihiro Nitta (58:51.6).

Canada’s Arendz ended the day in fifth (59:34.4).

“The most exciting part for me is watching these young guys like Brittany and Emily killing it in classic, or watching Collin who has become a superstar over year in just his second year,” McKeever said in the press release. “I’m old has heck, but you see these development guys come in and all you can do is give them the toolbox to achieve success and show them the door, but they have to open it. These guys are and they are nailing it.”

Two days of racing remain for the 2017 IPC World Championships, with biathlon sprints on Saturday and middle-distance cross-country races on Sunday.

Day 5 results: Men’s 20 k standing | Women’s 15 k standing | Men’s 15 k sitting | Women’s 12 k sitting |  Men’s 20 k visually impaired | Women’s 15 k visually impaired

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Gabby Naranja

Gabby Naranja considers herself a true Mainer, having grown up in the northern most part of the state playing hockey and roofing houses with her five brothers. She graduated from Bates College where she ran cross-country, track, and nordic skied. She spent this past winter in Europe and is currently in Montana enjoying all that the U.S. northwest has to offer.

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