A bright array of local stars, world champions and sport veterans will assemble in Oberried, Germany for the second stop of the World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup. The competition, held from 20-28 January, will feature a record-breaking of nearly 200 athletes from 32 countries taking on both cross-country and biathlon races.
With less than two months to go before the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, this will be an opportunity for the athletes to evaluate their form and make last-minute changes to their preparations ahead of the sport’s biggest event.
Host Germany has no shortage of Nordic skiing stars. Most prominent among them are multiple world champions Martin Fleig and Andrea Eskau.
Fleig won the World Cup in sitting biathlon last season, and also claimed three medals in biathlon at the 2017 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships. Although he did not get any medals in his specialty discipline at the World Cup season opener in Canmore, Canada, Fleig came close with a fourth place in the sitting sprint. He was also fourth in the cross-country middle and long-distance races, and will be eager to get his season’s first podium on home soil.
Veteran skier Andrea Eskau was not among the heavy favourites going into Canmore, but the six-time Paralympic champion proved without a doubt that she is still the one to beat. The 46-year-old skier swept gold in all three of the cross-country sitting events and will try to expand her season’s collection with medals in biathlon at the second stop in Oberried.
Ukrainian athletes missed the competition in Canmore, but will be in full force in Oberried. The delegation includes several heavy medal favourites, including Ihor Reptyukh in the standing races, and Maksym Yarovyi and Taras Rad in the sitting category.
On the women’s side, expect tough competition from Oksana Shyshkova, with guide Vitaliy Kazakov, and Oleksandra Kononova who compete in the vision impaired and standing races, respectively. Each of them had a spectacular season last year and walked off from the 2017 World Championships with at least three champion titles.
Keeping up the momentum
Competing in the sitting races alongside Andrea Eskau was US star skier Oksana Masters. Masters enjoyed a sensational season start in Canmore, sweeping gold medals in all the sitting biathlon events and also taking two silvers in the cross-country races. She will be looking to maintain this winning streak in Oberried and thus get even more confidence heading to her fourth Paralympic Games where she will be trying to get her first gold medal.
Benjamin Daviet also appears to be in top form ahead of Oberried. The French skier, who competes in the standing races, won gold medals in all five of his events in Canmore.
In the vision impaired races, Sweden's Zebastian Modin, with guide Johannes Andersson, will be looking to improve on the silver and two bronze that he won in the cross-country races in Canmore. Last season’s World Cup winner in cross-country put his business studies on hold in pursuit of Paralympic medals and a back-to-back World Cup victory, and will do his best to make sure this decision was not in vain.
Champions still waiting
Not all of the medal favourites were able to turn expectations into top results at the season opener. Among them is double biathlon world champion Mark Arendz who struggled to win on home turf. Arendz took silver in the standing biathlon individual in Canmore, but was just short in two other races, finishing fourth in the cross-country middle distance and biathlon sprint. Arendz will be looking to improve on these results and get back into winning form in Oberried.
Anja Wicker also struggled at the start of the season. The German skier topped the sitting biathlon World Cup rankings for two years in a row, but was unable to deliver podium results in Canmore. Wicker finished out of the top 5 in all her biathlon events in Canada, but Oberried will give her another chance to get back on track before PyeongChang 2018.
Live results from Oberried will be available on World Para Nordic Skiing's website.