History was made on the weekend when Dresden, Germany hosted a shared World Cup for Para Nordic and able-bodied cross-country races.
The event, held from 11-13 January, marked the first time that FIS and World Para Nordic Skiing shared a World Cup venue and the participants could not be more excited about it.
“I’m so happy,” said USA’s sit skiers Oksana Masters after winning gold in the sprint. “I really wanted to do well because today is literally history for Para Nordic. It’s just incredible and I hope this is the start of something incredible in the future to come and the next generation of Nordic skiers to come. This is such a cool environment.”
With the sun shining over the city centre and up to 300 spectators watching from the sidelines on Sunday, 12 January, sit skiers picked up the baton from the earlier FIS race to finish the day off with a bang.
Sprint finals for the vision impaired and standing classes, were held the following day. For the short-distance race, the competition moved to the mountains in Altenberg, Germany.
“It’s really great to race here in Dresden,” said Austria’s Carina Edlinger who won gold in the women’s vision impaired sprint.
“It was so great to see all my old friends again competing at the FIS World Cup. It’s on one hand a bit sad when I say, if I did not get blind, probably I would have been competing here as well, but it’s amazing to win in Dresden as well.
“It’s IPC cross-country and it changed my life so much to come here and to still follow my dreams and have some goals, so it’s really great to have a sprint as well and be together with FIS.”
The Master touch
Masters swept the gold medals in the cross-country races of the second World Cup of the season, as she had done at the World Cup opener in December. With five victories to her name already, the sit skier looks poised to retain her overall Crystal Globe in the discipline.
The undefeated streak was a surprise to Masters, however, since she now balances her time between training for Nordic skiing and Para cycling, in which she has already qualified for her fifth Paralympic Games.
“I was so nervous because my focus and my trainings are all geared for Tokyo 2020,” Masters said. “I know sometimes I have to keep it in perspective that my results might not come in skiing because I’m focusing on the summer. That’s why it’s more shocking to know from the training I’ve been doing, it hasn’t been fully focused on Nordic specifically, and I still have the same results and it’s amazing.”
Her nearest rival, Birgit Skarstein of Norway, has a similar training regime since she has also qualified for Tokyo 2020 in Para rowing. Skarstein took silver in the sprint in Dresden, and followed that up with a bronze in the short-distance race, behind Masters and fellow USA skier Kendall Gretsch.
“I was so happy about the second place. Gretsch, who won the third place, I haven’t beaten her for years, and I was quite close to the first place too,” Skarstein said after the sprint. “This is quite a tricky place to race so I was really happy that it went that well.”
Like Masters, Russia’s Ivan Golubkov and Vladislav Lekomtsev enjoyed perfect races in the two venues. Sit skier Golubkov continued his winning streak from the World Cup opener in Lillehammer, Norway adding two medals to his three individual from December.
His compatriot Lekomtsev swept gold in the men’s standing events.
Meanwhile, Norway’s Vilde Nilsen and Russia’s Ekaterina Rumyantseva battled it out for gold in the women’s standing. Rumyantseva ruled supreme in the sprint with Nilsen coming in as the runner-up, but their positions swapped in the short-distance race.
Sweden’s Zebastian Modin and Canada’s Brian McKeever split the golden haul in the men’s vision impaired races, while Russia’s Vera Khlyzova bumped Edlinger down to silver in the second, short-distance race.
The middle-distance races that were initially scheduled to close the cross-country portion of the World Cup were cancelled due to low snow conditions in Altenberg.