Germany shoots clean to take gold

Anja Wicker and Martin Fleig among biggest winners at World Cup in Altenberg 20 Jan 2020
Three female sit-skiers posing with their trophies
TASTE OF SUCCESS: Anja Wicker of Germany celebrating her victory at the Altenberg 2020 World Cup with USA's Kendall, Gretsch and Oksana Masters
ⒸPedro Moreira for World Para Snow Sports
By Lena Smirnova | For World Para Nordic Skiing

German sit skiers brought joy to the Altenberg slopes by defeating the top medal favourites in biathlon as the German ski resort hosted the World Cup sprint races and test relay in the discipline from 17-19 January.

Anja Wicker and Martin Fleig shot cleanly on the second day of competition to earn gold medals in the biathlon sprint.

Wicker defeated last season’s overall Crystal Globe winner in biathlon, Kendall Gretsch, and fellow USA sit skier Oksana Masters, who struggled with her shooting and paid for it with a hefty time penalty.

Meanwhile, Fleig’s victory ended Ivan Golubkov’s four-race winning streak at the second World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup of the 2019-20 season.

The Russian athlete swept gold in the earlier cross-country events in World Cup co-hosts Dresden and Altenberg, but his shaky shooting brought an end to the winning spell.

The German team also picked up two silver medals through the efforts of Clara Klug in the women’s vision impaired class. Russia’s Vera Khlyzova and Ukraine’s Oksana Shyshkova split the golds in the two biathlon sprint races.

Breakthrough performance

Poland’s Iweta Faron emerged as the surprising star of the competition in Germany. The 20-year-old took bronze in the first women’s standing sprint and moved up to the silver-medal position on the second day.

To amplify this achievement, Faron managed to surpass Russia’s Ekaterina Rumyantseva, who dominated the biathlon events at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.

Ukraine’s Iryna Bui took gold in the second women’s standing sprint after a fourth-place finish the day before.

The World Cup in Dresden and Altenberg has been especially successful for Vladislav Lekomtsev. The Russian skier won gold in the two cross-country and two biathlon races in the men’s standing class to plant himself firmly at the top of the rankings.

While youth ruled the podium in the standing races, experience and age proved to be the deciding factor in the men’s vision impaired events.

Russia’s Nikolai Polukhin, 37-year-old, took silver in both sprints. Joining him on the podium of the first sprint along with Belarus’ Yury Holub, was another Belarusian skier, Vasili Shaptsiaboi, who turned 40 in November.

Test Event

Aside from the individual races, Altenberg also hosted a test event of the proposed biathlon team relay. The competition was split by classes with the sit skiers competing independently while the standing and vision impaired classes were brought together for a joint race.

The format of the team relay will continue to be tested at future events with the aim to eventually introduce it into the official programme.

Full results from the biathlon races in Altenberg are available on the World Para Nordic Skiing’s website.