IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup Finals to be last major international showdown before Sochi 2014

Over 125 athletes from 19 countries are set to gather in Obertsdorf, Germany, beginning on Friday (17 January) for the climax of the cross-country races of the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup, which marks the last major international competition ahead of Sochi 2014 in the discipline. 17 Jan 2014
The IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup Finals 2013/2014 will be held in Oberstdorf, Germany

The IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup Finals 2013/2014 will be held in Oberstdorf, Germany

ⒸLuc Percival

All athletes currently ranked in the World Cup top three will be action, alongside other big names, in long and sprint-distance freestyle and middle-distance classic races from 17-19 January, and races will be live streamed.

Amongst those competing are the only two non-Russians to hold top three places - Norwegian No. 1 sit-skier Mariann Marthinsen and Japan's standing skier Shoko Oto in the women's events.

Marthinsen, who picked up several wins in World Cup events in Canmore, Canada, and Vuokatti, Finland, this season, won silver in the middle distance classic at the 2013 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships in Solleftea, Sweden. World champion and Vancouver 2010 bronze medallist German Andrea Eskau is Marthinsen's closest rival, alongside Russian teammates Marta Zaynullina and Svetlana Konovalova who currently hold second and third places in the rankings.

American fans will also be treated to another appearance from six-time world and three time Paralympic champion wheelchair racer Tatyana McFadden, fresh from her marathon major success in late 2013. McFadden is making the switch to winter sports in a bid to be named to the USA team heading to Russia.

Meanwhile Oto, 24, has made second place on the World Cup podium twice in the sprint classic and middle-distance freestyle and has risen to become one of Japan's best medal hopes at Sochi 2014, following her debut as the youngest member of the team in Torino in 2006 at the age of just 17.

Also on the up in the women's standing is 16-year-old Natalia Bratiuk who will be competing in her first Games come Sochi, currently placed second in the rankings and Alena Kaufman who has come through strong this season with five cross-country podiums out of six, including two first places to win her World Cup No. 1 status.

In the women's visually impaired, the battle between long-distance World Championship podium athletes Elena Remizova and guide Natalia Yakimova, Iuliia Budaleeva with guide Tatiana Maltseva and Mikhalina Lysova guided by Alexey Ivanov, is set to continue. The Russian trio sit atop the World Cup standings in first, second and third, respectively.

In the men's event, the all-Russian top three of Stanislav Chokhlaev (guide Makism Pirogov), Nikolay Polukhin (guide Andrey Tokarev) and Alexsander Artemov (guide Illya Cherepanov) have been swapping places all season with seven-time Paralympic champion Canadian Brian Mckeever.

The rivalry between two-time relay Paralympic champion Polukhin and the rest of this field has been one of the most compelling, with Chokhlaev equalling Polukhin's four World Cup podiums. Mckeever has stood in first place twice, despite the recent absence of guide Erik Carleton due to illness.

Reigning middle-distance classic sitting world champion Roman Petushkov will face off once again with Solleftea 2013 silver medallist and teammate Grigory Murygin, both of whom currently sit behind No. 1 Irek Zaripov in the standings, and Japanese biathlon specialist Kozo Kubo.

The men's standing will see world champion Vladislav Lekomtcev, currently placed second in the World Cup rankings, go up against No.1 Rushan Minnegulov and Solleftea bronze medallist Vladimir Kononov.

The biathlon finals of the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup will be held in Oberried from 23-26 January.