Star-studded field for first World Cup of Paralympic year09 Dec 2017
Anja Wicker competes at the Para Nordic skiing World Cup in PyeongChang, South Korea.
By Lena Smirnova | For the IPC
Another exciting World Cup season for Nordic skiing is about to get underway. Athletes are in top form going into the crucial Paralympic year and the battles on the mountain slopes are guaranteed to be intense.
The 2017 World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup starts in Canmore, Canada with races taking place from 9-17 December. This will be the first of three stops on the World Cup circuit this year. The athletes will also compete in Oberried, Germany in January and wrap up the point tallies with the final in Vuokatti, Finland in early February.
In Canmore, the competition begins with cross country races held on 9, 10 and 12 December, followed by three days of biathlon events held on 14, 16 and 17 December.
Host Canada will have more than 20 athletes in the competition, including Paralympic silver and bronze medallist Mark Arendz. The Canmore resident won gold medals in the biathlon sprint and middle distance at the 2017 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships, and is competing in five biathlon standing races on his home turf.
Canada’s Paralympic champion in sitting 10km cross country, Chris Klebl, will also be in Canmore to test his form ahead of PyeongChang 2018.
The golden ones
A number of athletes have been on a roll in recent years and look poised to stand on the podiums at World Cup competitions as well as the upcoming Paralympic Winter Games.
Many of them will be battling for top spots in Canmore, including German biathlon specialists Anja Wicker and Martin Fleig.
Wicker was the overall winner of the Biathlon World Cup for two consecutive years and also finished last season with one gold and two silver medals in sitting biathlon events at the 2017 World Championships. Her teammate Fleig topped the Biathlon World Cup rankings on the men’s side, and picked up two gold and one bronze in the sitting biathlon races at the last World Championships.
Meanwhile, Zebastian Modin will be looking to extend his incredible comeback, which saw him return to champion form after missing two seasons of competition due to injury. The feisty Swede won the overall World Cup in cross country among visually impaired athletes last year and will be a tough rival in Canmore.
Some of the world’s Nordic skiers have struggled to maintain their top results in the four years since the 2014 Paralympic Games. But don’t count them out when it comes to the new World Cup and Paralympic season.
With experience on their side, past Paralympic medallists, such as Andrea Eskau and Nils-Erik Ulset, will spare no effort to defend their titles and once again become the ones to watch.
Germany’s Eskau has a career total of five gold medals, including the 6km sitting biathlon at Sochi 2014. She will compete in six biathlon races in Canmore.
Fellow biathlete specialist Nils-Erik Ulset, who won silver for Norway in the 12.5km standing race, is entered in four events in Canmore.
The season’s opener in Canada will also see the return of several Paralympic champions from Sochi 2014, who are now competing as neutral athletes. Most notably these include six-time Paralympic gold medallist Roman Petushkov, five-time gold medallist Anna Milenina, four-time gold medallist Mikhalina Lysova, and three-time gold medallist Elena Remizova.
The races in Canmore will put a spotlight on the young talents who are eager to make their mark in international sport.
Among them is Austria’s Carina Edlinger who had a magical debut season at the World Cup last year, winning the overall cross country in the visually impaired class as well as two gold medals at the 2017 World Championships. The 19-year-old is competing in three races in Canmore and will be a threat on all the cross country distances.