The opening day of Para biathlon at the World Para Snow Sport Championships saw clean sweeps from Ukraine and RPC, with Belarus and Germany also topping the podium at the Birkebeineren Ski and Biathlon Stadium on Saturday (15 January).
Two-time Paralympic champion Oleksandra Kononova took her first world title in the women’s standing sprint in seven years finishing 24 seconds ahead of her teammate and silver medallist Liudmyla Liashenko in a complete Ukrainian podium with Yuliia Batenkova-Bauman in third.
Ukraine also finished with the fourth place with Iryna Bui. RPC went one better in the women’s vision impaired sprint taking all top five positions.
As Kononova, double Crystal Globe winner Vera Khlyzova also shot clean to take gold. Competing with guide Natalia Iakimova, Khlyzova claimed her first world title in her debut at a major Para biathlon championships. Her compatriots Ekaterina Razumnaia and Anna Panferova finished with silver and bronze, respectively.
Margarita Tereshchenkova in fourth and Iuliia Smirnova in fifth extended RPC’s domination in the VI class.
SUPER SATURDAY FOR RPC AND WICKER
There were more victories for the RPC on Saturday. Vladislav Lekomtsev bagged his second gold medal in Lillehammer, this time in the men’s Para biathlon standing sprint event.
“I am happy, of course,” said Lekomtsev already focusing on Beijing 2022 in March. “It is like a dress rehearsal of the Paralympic Games so I'm very happy and I hope to continue this way.”
It was a one-two RPC podium as Aleksandr Pronkov finished second. Ukraine claimed the bronze with Grygorii Vovchynskyi.
Germany’s Anja Wicker dethroned USA’s Oksana Masters by a 1.6 second difference in the women's sitting sprint. It was the second World Championships gold in Wicker’s career, the first since her victory in the women's 12.5km individual sitting back in the 2017 World Championships.
It was Wicker’s second podium in Lillehammer following her cross-country skiing bronze in the opening day on Thursday. The German said the triumphs boost her confidence to face the Winter Games in March.
“Yes, I'm always thinking about Beijing 2022. These two races are really good motivation,” Wicker said.
It was Masters’ first appearance in Lillehammer after recovering from COVID that delayed her arrival in Norway.
“I took a week out of training, it’s very, very challenging. It’s great to get this first race out of the way,” said the seven-time Paralympic medallist in Para Nordic skiing events.
Like Wicker, Belarus’ Yuri Holub also turned his Para cross-country bronze medal into Para biathlon gold taking the men’s vision impaired world title. RPC’s Stanislav Chokhlaev clinched the silver and Ukraine’s Oleksandr Kazik the bronze.
MORE ACTION ON SUNDAY
Para biathlon action resumes on Sunday (16 January) with the middle distance starting at 9:30am (CET).
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 will be available on Flickr.