2018 Winter Paralympics (PyeongChang, South Korea): 10/12.5 k biathlon races
Amid soft and slow conditions at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre on Tuesday, American Dan Cnossen raced to his third-straight medal in as many races at the 2018 Paralympics, claiming silver in the men’s 12.5-kilometer sitting biathlon race just ahead of his U.S. Paralympics Nordic teammate and fellow military veteran Andy Soule, who earned bronze.
Cnossen, a retired Navy SEAL, previously won gold in Saturday’s 7.5 k biathlon sprint and silver in Sunday’s 15 k cross-country race. Despite wind gusts up to 15 miles per hour on Tuesday, Cnossen hit all 20 of his targets and finished second, 1:01.7 minutes behind Ukraine’s Taras Rad, who won in 45:35.6 with clean shooting as well.
“Personally, this was such an important breakthrough, to shoot 20 for 20, especially on the last shooting stage,” the 37-year-old Cnossen said, according to a U.S. Paralympics press release. “I’ve had some mental blocks in the past where I overthink things or get a little anxious, so I really took my time, especially on the last two shots. I wanted to get my heart rate down and make sure the wind wasn’t blowing. It feels really good to overcome this mental hurdle. I just wanted to see what I could do today, and have my own race, and not worry about what other people are doing.”
Soule, a 38-year-old Army veteran, missed two on his third shooting stage (0+0+2+0) to finish third, 1:33.1 out of first. It was the second Paralympic medal of his career after Soule he earned bronze in the biathlon pursuit at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“I was really skiing at an aggressive pace,” Soule told U.S. Paralympics on Tuesday. “I was struggling to hold it together at the range those last two shootings. When I missed those two, I also knew that I had seen other people missing. I knew a miss or two wasn’t going to necessarily put me out of it. I knew I just needed to get back up, set the same aggressive pace, and maybe back it off just a little earlier on the next lap to make sure I get the shots. It came together just fine.”
It was another special moment for the U.S. Paralympics program with two of its leading men on the podium.
“I’m really happy for our whole team, to see how much success we’re having,” Soule said. “I think it’s a testament to great coaching, great support, great staff. Lots of great work being done behind the scenes by so many people that you don’t even see who are out here long before we even arrive at the venue. It’s a great group of athletes. I’m so happy to be a teammate with these guys.”
“This race feels especially good because I have my teammate, Andy, on the podium,” Cnossen said. “I knew he was going to have a good race. I’m really proud and happy to see him on the podium.”
Also for the U.S., Aaron Pike placed seventh in that race (+5:38.1) with a single miss (0+0+0+1), Sean Halsted finished 14th (+10:35.7) with five penalties, and Bryan Price was 16th (+17:02.3) with 10 misses.
Canada’s lone man in the 12.5 k sitting biathlon race, Derek Zaplotinsky finished 12th (+9:15.3) with five penalties.
Coming off two medals in the women’s sitting biathlon and cross-country events last weekend, Kendall Gretsch placed fourth in the 10 k sitting biathlon race on Tuesday, 16.5 seconds out of third. According to a U.S. Paralympics press release, she fell three times and incurred three penalties (1+0+0+2), finishing 2:05.4 behind the winner, Germany’s Andrea Eskau.
A four-time gold medalist in Paralympic cycling with two silver medals in cross-country skiing (from two Winter Paralympics), Eskau, 46, claimed her first gold of the PyeongChang Games in 42:36.6 with one miss (0+0+1+0). Marta Zainullina and Irina Guliaeva, of the Neutral Paralympic Athletes (NPA), took silver (+1:15.5) and bronze (+1:48.9), respectively, with Zainullina skiing just one penalty lap and Guliaeva having to ski three.
Oksana Masters did not finish, pulling out after 8.64 k with six penalties (1+2+1+2).
Second Medal for Arendz
Mark Arendz led Canada with his second medal in the second biathlon race, the men’s 12.5 k standing, racing to bronze, 30.9 seconds out of first. Arendz cleaned three stages before missing one on his last shooting (0+0+0+1), causing him to ski an additional 150 meters in the penalty lap.
France’s Benjamin Daviet won that race in 38:55.5 with one late penalty as well (0+0+0+1), and Ukraine’s Ihor Reptyukh collected silver (+6.7) with one miss as well (0+0+1+0).
“I knew there were some tired guys, so I went for it from the start and tried to put some pressure on,” Arendz, 28, said in a Cross Country Canada press release. “I decided in that last bout to go for it all, throw it down, and go for the win. Unfortunately, I had the one miss and it made it a tight and interesting race.”
Arendz, who took silver in the opening biathlon sprint and also has two biathlon silver medals from the 2014 Paralympics, is seeking his first Paralympic gold.
“It was a really tough battle all day. I handed it to them early and had a choice: to go for gold or settle for the podium. I went for the win and had that one miss that cost me today,” he said. “I ran out of energy at the end. I am really happy with my race and it is another medal for Canada. I know everything is going well. I just need that last little tweak to finally win one.”
American Ruslan Reiter finished 11th in that race (+8:41.4) with three penalties (0+2+1+1).
Brittany Hudak led the Canadian women in fifth in the 10 k standing biathlon race, 5:45.8 behind Ekaterina Rumyantseva (NPA) in first. Hudak cleaned the first three stages before missing one in the last bout (0+0+0+1).
“The first lap I felt good,” Hudak recalled in the team press release. “The skis were running well in these conditions, but then it just got slower as we went on. The flat sections you really try put power to glide the ski but your weight is sinking you into the snow. It got harder to get some glide and as my legs got more tired I didn’t feel like I was moving fast.
“I tried to keep calm in the range and take my time,” she added. “The wind today was gusting, so I took a bit longer on my setup than I usually would and tried to be consistent. For the most part it worked well until that last lap, and that last bout. Overall it was an OK race.”
Paralympic racing continues Wednesday with men’s and women’s cross-country sprints, starting at 10 a.m. Korea time (7 p.m. EDT Tuesday).