After three bronze medals, Anja Wicker finally broke through to first place to finish off the 2020-21 season on a golden note. The German skier shot clean to take the gold medal in the biathlon sprint and individual events, and top the overall ranking in the women’s sitting class.
The biathlon sprint and individual were held on the final two days of the World Cup in Vuokatti, Finland and closed off the 2020-21 season.
“I’m so happy. It was a great day, great shooting today, great arms. I was very fast today, just all around very happy,” Wicker said after winning her first gold this season.
Wicker took two bronze medals in the earlier cross-country sprint and short distance events in Vuokatti, to add to her bronze from the biathlon sprint at the World Cup in Planica, Slovenia.
In biathlon, she has not missed a single shot this season.
“I’m very happy about that,” Wicker said. “I always try to shoot as fast as I can and as clean as I can so if it works, I’m very satisfied.”
The biathlon sprint also brought the season’s first gold medal to Belarus’ Yury Holub and his new guide, Uladzimir Chapelin, in the men’s vision impaired class.
Last season’s biathlon Crystal Globe winner Holub struggled with his shooting, missing shots in each round of the sprint, but made up for it with his quick skiing to finish less than 10 seconds ahead of Russia’s Stanislav Chokhlaev and his guide Oleg Kolodiichuk.
“Before the last climb, I was told that our margin was five, seven seconds and that we need eight seconds to win, so we pushed and suffered a little bit more and won,” Holub said. “The race turned out to be very fast. Not everything worked out with the shooting. There are things to work on, but we are very happy that we won.”
Holub chose to skip the next, individual race due to fatigue. Chokhlaev took the gold medal in that event along with the overall title in biathlon.
“Overall, the season was good. It could have been better, but I won two Globes so it’s good,” said Chokhlaev, who also topped the cross-country rankings in his class.
“We train really well together and do everything that we need and can to get a top result,” Kolodiichuk added.
While Wicker and Holub got their season’s first gold medals in Vuokatti’s biathlon races, Russia’s Vera Khlyzova and her guide Natalia Iakimova wrapped up a perfect streak.
The duo swept gold in the women’s vision impaired biathlon at the World Cups to finish with a confident lead in the overall standings. Their race strategy was based on clean shooting - Khlyzova only missed one shot this season, at the earlier World Cup in Planica, Slovenia.
“The weather conditions were very difficult. The snow melted a bit, so we wagered everything on the shooting,” Iakimova said. “When we could shoot clean, then we had the confidence that we would definitely win.”
Russian athletes also topped the rankings in the men’s standing and men’s sitting classes. Standing skier Vladislav Lekomtsev and sit skier Ivan Golubkov finished the biathlon season undefeated. The two victories in Vuokatti earned each athlete his second consecutive overall title to add to their earlier cross-country titles.
Despite this perfect record, Golubkov still sees room for improvement ahead of the big next season, which includes the World Para Snow Sports Championships and the Paralympic Winter Games.
“The season, overall, was good. I liked everything,” Golubkov said. “Of course, I could have done a little bit better.”
Meanwhile, Ukraine dominated the women’s standing races. Liudmyla Liashenko won all the biathlon races to move up from eighth place in the rankings last season to first this season. Her teammates Yuliia Batenkova-Bauman and Iryna Bui rounded off the Top 3.
Full results from the biathlon races at the World Cup in Vuokatti, Finland and the overall rankings are available on the World Para Nordic Skiing website.