There is something about the biathlon middle distance race that makes Belarus’ Yury Holub invincible.
The 2018 Paralympic and 2019 world champion in the men’s vision impaired event kept a tight hold of his crown during the second day of biathlon racing at the Lillehammer 2021 World Para Snow Sports Championships.
Even falling on one of the descents did not stop the Belarusian skier from finishing comfortably ahead of his nearest competitors, RPC’s Stanislav Chokhlaev and Oleg Ponomarev.
“The descent is very tricky. There is ice and I didn’t notice how my guide went through it, so I went on a wrong trajectory and fell because of this, yet this did not prevent me from winning,” Holub said.
“I was also able to shoot well. I didn’t shoot fast. I shot with confidence and everything worked out.”
Holub shot clean to become the only male athlete to defend his 2019 title in this event in Lillehammer.
The gold medal makes it two for the Belarusian skier who also won Saturday’s sprint event with a clean shooting record.
LIASHENKO’s GOLDEN BREAKTHROUGH
Ukraine’s Liudmyla Liashenko was the only other athlete who managed to defend her 2019 world title in the biathlon middle distance event. She won gold in the women’s standing class to add to her silver and bronze from the earlier biathlon and cross-country races.
This was also her first victory of the season despite being the heavy medal favourite in her class.
“I am very happy and this cannot be expressed with words,” Liashenko said. “I worked on my shooting and everything worked out.”
Liashenko also led Ukraine’s second consecutive sweep in women’s standing biathlon at Lillehammer 2021. Her teammate Oleksandra Kononova, who won gold in Saturday’s biathlon sprint, picked up the bronze while fellow Ukrainian Iryna Bui took the silver.
“Anybody could be on the podium, not just the athletes from Ukraine, but also from the Russian Federation and the Americans, but maybe Ukraine skis a bit faster and shoots better,” Liashenko said.
RPC skiers achieved the other full sweep in the biathlon middle distance, winning all medals in the women’s vision impaired class for the second straight day.
Vera Khlyzova and Ekaterina Razumnaia went one and two once again, while Margarita Tereshchenkova picked up the bronze. Two more RPC skiers were fourth and fifth.
RPC’s Vladislav Lekomtsev and Ivan Golubkov recorded their third straight wins at Lillehammer 2021 by taking down defending champions in the men’s standing and sitting events.
In the men’s standing, it was a third gold medal for Vladislav Lekomtsev who has gone almost undefeated since the 2019-20 season.
While he missed a shot on his first turn at the range, the RPC skier quickly recovered his winning pace to finish more than a minute ahead of his teammate Aleksandr Pronkov and almost two minutes ahead of the defending Paralympic and world champion Benjamin Daviet of France.
Meanwhile, Golubkov shot clean to take down the defending world champion from Ukraine, Taras Rad, who ultimately took the silver. Golubkov’s teammate Danila Britik finished third, only half a second from the silver medal position.
For USA’s Kendall Gretsch, the gold in the women’s sitting event was a long-awaited absolution for her missed moment three years ago.
Back at the 2019 Worlds, she was leading in the second half of the race, but four missed shots in the final laps dropped her down to second place behind teammate Oksana Masters.
This time, however, it was the defending champion who was struggling with the shooting. After three missed shots in the sprint, Masters missed a further seven in the middle distance and only managed to get on the podium with the clean-shooting Gretsch and RPC’s silver medallist Natalia Kocherova thanks to her fast skiing.
“I’m really excited for today’s race. It went really well, skiing and shooting,” Gretsch said.
“You never know with biathlon, the shooting adds such an element that can change things up, so I was really happy to shoot clean today.”
The biathlon events of the Lillehammer 2021 World Para Snow Sports Championships continue with the individual race on Thursday, 20 January.
All Lillehammer 2021 events are streamed live on the World Para Snow Sports Facebook page and the Para Nordic skiing website.
Pictures for editorial purposes are available on Flickr.