"The race was very tough today."
Nordic skiers have shown that there is everything to play for heading into Sochi 2014, with some close finishes in the middle distance classic races on the final day of the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup cross-country finals in Oberstdorf, Germany.
Germany's world champion Andrea Eskau completed a hat-trick of victories with a win in the women's sitting over 5km (13:06.1), delighting the home crowds who had been watching her progress all weekend (17-19 January). Eskau sits atop the cross-country world rankings heading into the biathlon finals in Oberried, Germany, which start on Thursday (23 January) but Norwegian Mariann Marthinsen is the overall 2013-14 cross-country World Cup winner.
Russia's 10km biathlon bronze medalist from the 2013 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships in Solleftea, Sweden, Svetlana Konovalova, finished second (13:20.6) leading Ukrainian Lyudmyla Pavlenko (13:21.7) who adds to her podium from the sprint freestyle from Saturday (18 January).
In the men's event, Canada's Chris Klebl once again sped to victory in 23:34.7 to follow on from his long distance win (17 January,) showing that he will be a face to look out for come March. Klebl's victory was not enough to stop Russia's Roman Petsuhkov from winning the overall World Cup title however, despite the world champion's third place finish (23.39.6) behind Ukraine's Maksim Yarovyi (23:37.5).
Klebl's teammate Brian Mckeever and guide Erik Carleton beat reigning Russian world champion Nikolay Polukhin into top spot to secure his place as the best in the world with less than 50 days to go until Sochi 2014 (25:02.7). Polukhin and guide Andrey Tokarev finished in 25:37.1 with Solleftea 2013 silver medalist and world No. 2 teammate Stanislav Chokhlaev completing the podium (26:18.4). That performance secured Chokhlaev the overall World Cup win.
The women's visually impaired was an all-Russian affair and saw visibly exhausted winner (14:18.7) Mikhalina Lysova (guide Alexey Ivanov) speak for many skiers in her post-race interview: "The race was very tough today", the reigning world champion said. World No. 1 and World Cup champion Elena Remizova with guide Natalia Yakimov finished second (14:24.0) ahead of Iuliia Budaleeva guided by Tatiana Maltseva (14:49.6).
Rounding off the days action in partly cloudy conditions, two degrees Celsius above freezing, was a double win for reigning world champion standing skiers Russian Vladislav Lekomtcev and Ukraine's Oleksandra Kononova.
Kononova (15:10.5) leads the world rankings after her win against teammate world No. 2 Iuliia Batenkova (15:54.7) and Russian Anna Milenina (15:55.5). Russia's Alena Kaufman finished the World Cup with the overall title.
Lekomtcev's win over 10km in 26:37.7 does not affect compatriot Minnegulov's status as the overall World Cup winner, adding to his profile with a second place (27:17.4) ahead of a second third place of the weekend for Japan's Yoshishiro Nitta (27:29.9).
Nordic skiers will now move on to Oberried for the final IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup biathlon races from 23-26 January.