Double Paralympic champion Andrea Eskau will lead a team of 10 German skiers aiming to impress at their home IPC Biathlon and Cross-Country Skiing World Cup, which gets underway in Finsterau on Monday (22 February).
Results will be available at the IPC Nordic skiing website.
Eskau heads out in the women’s sitting with a busy schedule, competing in five individual and one relay event in both biathlon and cross-country. The multi-sport athlete is using the World Cup to prepare for September’s Rio 2016 Paralympic Games where she has two handcycling titles to defend.
The triple world champion is most formidable in the cross-country as the reigning title holder in the sprint freestyle, middle and long distance classic. Eskau is also the Paralympic gold medallist in the biathlon sprint.
The USA’s Oksana Masters, another athlete hoping to make it to Rio 2016, is also in Finsterau as a podium finisher from the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games and 2015 World Championships in cross-country.
In the women’s biathlon sitting Eskau’s teammate Anja Wicker, herself a middle distance Paralympic champion, will be hoping to gain valuable World Cup points.
In the men’s sitting Germany’s Martin Fleig currently sits second in the overall biathlon rankings, just 60 points behind Russia’s Grigory Murygin who will also compete.
An athlete with a proven reputation across both biathlon and cross-country is Russia’s six-time Paralympic champion Roman Petushkov. The Russian is also in the race for a top three finish this season in both sports.
Clara Klug is the main hope for the hosts in the women’s biathlon visually impaired. The 21-year-old reached the World Cup podium for the first time at the season opener in Tyumen, Russia, in December. Her performance propelled her to third place in the overall rankings with guide Martin Hartl.
Klug sits behind Russians and double Paralympic champion Mikhalina Lysova, guided by Alexey Ivanov, and Elena Remizova with guide Maksim Pirogov, ranked No. 1 and 2, respectively.
Remizova is also a challenger in the cross-country as a triple Paralympic and World Championships gold medallist.
In the men’s visually impaired, Russia’s double cross-country world champion Stanislav Chokhlaev sits atop the leader board with guide Oleg Kolodiichuk, closely followed by France’s Thomas Clarion guided by Antoine Bollet.
Choklaev is also the leader in the biathlon standings, but his triple world champion teammate Nikolay Polukhin, guided by Andrey Tokarev, will push him all the way.
Canada’s Brittany Hudak, the overall cross-country World Cup winner from 2014-15, will make her season debut in the women’s standing.
So far Russia’s Anna Milenina has dominated the podium, winning all but one race across biathlon and cross-country in Tyumen.
Milenina’s compatriot Ekaterina Rumyantseva was the only skier to topple her in the long distance biathlon.
Less than 70 points separates the top three in the men’s biathlon standing, led by Russia’s multiple Worlds gold medallist Vladislav Lekomtsev. France’s Benjamin Daviet is only 10 points behind Lekomtsev, whilst Norway’s Nils-Erik Ulset is third.
In the cross-country Russia’s long distance world champion Rushan Minnegulov leads the way.
Nearly 120 athletes from 15 countries will compete in Finsterau. Action gets underway on Monday with men’s and women’s biathlon sprint across all classifications, running until Sunday (28 February).
There will also be a new rookie race tested on Sunday (21 February), aimed at providing aspiring skiers with the chance to compete on World Cup level courses.