By Stephen Meyers
ZHANGJIAKOU, China — Team USA’s dynamic duo of Kendall Gretsch (Downers Grove, Ill.) and Oksana Masters (Louisville, Kentucky) won gold and silver in the women’s sitting biathlon middle-distance on the fourth day of competition at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
The U.S. Para Nordic team has now collected seven medals across biathlon and cross-country skiing at Beijing 2022, with four more days of racing to go at the Zhangjiakou Biathlon Center.
For Gretsch, Saturday’s gold medal is the fourth gold —and fifth medal overall — in her Paralympic career. She won gold in the 6k biathlon and 12k cross-country events at PyeongChang 2018 and won gold in Para triathlon at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo six months ago.
The dual sport star now has two medals at Beijing 2022, as she began the biathlon competition with a bronze in the women’s sitting biathlon sprint.
After receiving a penalty in the first round of shooting in Tuesday’s race, Gretsch shot clean the remaining three rounds and skied strong, with quick shooting, in the second half of the 10-kilometer race to overtake Masters and win gold in a time of 33:12.
“I’m really excited with today‘s race. I had a good day on skis and I’m happy with our performance. Hopefully we can build on that for the rest of the races too,” said Gretsch, who praised the U.S. Para Nordic team’s culture and support.
“We have such a strong program and great support from our team. The coaching and everything from waxing our skis so they are really fast, and helping us with nutrition, all the support that we get from the staff at Team USA is huge.”
For Masters, Tuesday’s silver is the third medal she’s won in Beijing and 13th overall in her Paralympics career. She again shot clean — like she did en route to winning gold in the women’s sitting biathlon sprint — and finished 9 seconds behind Gretsch, in 33:21.
“I’m excited with a silver medal. This is my second biathlon medal in the Paralympic Games. This is my second consecutive biathlon medal that I’d shot clean for, which I don’t normally do,” said Masters who also won silver in long-distance cross-country.
“I’m so proud of myself. I was doubting myself coming in here and I think now what I can do is have confidence knowing I have put the work into it and I can do it. And try to make it a little faster so I’m not just giving away time in the race trying to get that shot.”
Germany’s Anja Wicker won the bronze, in a time of 35:45.
Team USA’s Lera Doederlein (San Diego, California), competing in her first Paralympic Games, placed ninth.
Dan Cnossen (Topeka, Kansas) was the top U.S. finisher in the men’s sitting biathlon middle-distance, where he placed 12th with a time of 34:10. Aaron Pike (Park Rapids, Minnesota) finished 15th in a time of 36:49.
Tuesday’s racing action also included biathlon middle-distance events in the standing and visually impaired categories.
The lone U.S. athlete competing in the women’s race, Dani Aravich (Boise, Idaho) skied to 11th place in her second Winter Paralympic race. She made her Paralympic debut in track and field at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo.
In the men’s standing biathlon race, Ruslan Reiter (Manchester, Maine) placed 12th and Drew Shea (Vienna, Virginia) took 13th. Reiter is competing in his second Winter Paralympics, while Shea is making his Paralympic debut. No U.S. athletes competed in the visually impaired category.
Racing returns to the Zhangjiakou Biathlon Center on Wednesday, March 9 with the men’s and women’s sprint cross-country.
To follow and watch U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing competition from the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Games, tune in to NBC, which features more than 230 hours of coverage across NBC, Peacock, USA Network, the Olympic Channel, NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports App. Follow U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for daily updates from Beijing.