By Stuart Lieberman | TeamUSA.org
ZHANGJIAKOU, China — Considering that March is Women’s History Month, U.S. Paralympic Nordic skiers Oksana Masters and Kendall Gretsch are certainly making their fair share of contributions to the history books.
Masters and Gretsch picked up gold and silver medals, respectively, on Friday at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022, with Masters winning the women’s individual sitting biathlon in 42:17.9 and Gretsch finishing second in 42:23.7.
It was the third time within a week the pair, who train together in Bozeman, Montana, podiumed at the Zhangjiakou National Biathlon Centre. Combined, they have eight medals at these Paralympics, more than half of Team USA’s total medal haul.
Masters is now a 15-time Paralympic medalist — tying her with John Morgan for the fifth most Paralympic medals by a U.S. athlete — and a six-time Paralympic champion. Already at these Games she had won a gold in the sprint biathlon, and silvers in the middle-distance biathlon, long-distance cross-country and sprint cross-country events.
Following her first biathlon gold, she posted on Instagram: “Some feelings can’t be put into words. I am beyond proud to stand on the podium representing the heart, fight, love, resiliency, and pure joy for two countries,” referring to the U.S. and Ukraine, the latter being her birth country.
“I not only finally got to hold my dream, but I also am sharing parts of it with my home country of Ukraine especially for the young kids with disabilities. I want to make every start line mean something, make it really count for more than a result. That’s why I will be donating proceeds of my prize money from the Paralympics here to No Child Forgotten managed by Global Giving and Bridge Kids Charity, supporting children living with physical disabilities in Ukraine – many of them with single moms.”
Gretsch, who is still the reigning world champion in the individual biathlon, is now a six-time Paralympic medalist. This marked her first career silver medal, and she now has the entire collection of colors from Beijing 2022, having already won gold in the middle-distance biathlon and bronze in the sprint biathlon.“Today was an awesome day,” Gretsch said. “For me and the U.S. team it’s always fun to go one-two. We’re both shooting and skiing well, and so it was a fun race today.”
In the men’s individual sitting biathlon, six-time Paralympic medalist and former U.S. Navy SEAL Dan Cnossen was the top American finisher, taking seventh in 42:46.9. Six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike was ninth in 43:19.0. It was the third top-10 finish for both Cnossen and Pike at these Paralympics.
The U.S. Para Nordic skiers will return to the National Biathlon Centre on Saturday for the cross-country middle distance races.
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022? Visit TeamUSA.org/Beijing-2022-Paralympic-Games to view the competition schedule, medal table and results.