The Para Nordic skiing season is set to get underway with the opening World Cup in Vuokatti, Finland, on Friday (9 December), as nearly 130 athletes from 20 countries begin their road to the 2017 World Championships.
Home skier Sini Pyy will compete in the women’s biathlon and cross-country sitting , alongside teammate Ilkka Tuomisto who finished fourth in the overall men’s cross-country standing World Cup last season. The 2017 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships take place in Finsterau, Germany, from 10-19 February.
“I am very excited, and even more now that the season starts in Finland! Vuokatti is a good place to start because we have raced there so often that you can also keep up with your own development across the seasons,” Pyy said. “We have all of our training camps in Vuokatti, so it is almost like racing at home. The tracks are quite demanding, and you really have to give it your all in every competition. And it is so nice to have friends and relatives cheering for you there.”
Pyy is aiming to improve herself this season in her favourite distance in biathlon and cross-country, the sprint. She will also compete in the short distance freestyle and long distance classic cross-country.
Germany’s Anja Wicker, the individual biathlon silver medallist from the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, will race against Pyy.
Another German skier hoping to get his season off to a good start ahead of his home Worlds is Martin Fleig in the men’s sitting. As the runner-up from the 2015-16 biathlon World Cup, Fleig is up against a strong field including Ukraine’s biathlon and cross-country sprint world champion Maksym Yarovyi. The USA’s Andrew Soule is a contender having finished on the podium five times at the 2015 World Championships.
In the women’s standing, Ukraine’s Oleksandra Kononova returns as a top three finisher from both biathlon and cross-country World Cups last season. The reigning sprint classic and long distance freestyle world champion will go up against the Canadian duo of Brittany Hudak and Emily Young.
Tuomisto will take centre stage for Finland in the men’s standing, challenging Ukraine’s multiple World Championships medallist Ihor Reptyukh.
Other Worlds podium finishers to feature in both biathlon and cross-country will be France’s Benjamin Daviet and Norway’s Nils-Erik Ulset.
Ukraine’s Oksana Shyshkova, a triple Paralympic biathlon bronze medallist from Sochi 2014, headlines the women’s visually impaired with guide Vitalii Kazakov.
In the men’s, Sweden’s sprint freestyle Paralympic silver medallist Zebastian Modin and guide Johannes Andersson return to the trails. Ukraine’s Iurii Utkin, guided by Ruslan Perekhoda, is the one to watch in the individual biathlon as the 2015 World bronze medallist.
Amongst the athletes competing will be teams from China, South Korea, Japan, Kazakhstan, and Mongolia, as Para Nordic skiing expands its reach in Asia ahead of the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
Results will be available at the World Para Nordic Skiing website.
Live updates will be posted to World Para Nordic Skiing’s Twitter (@ParaNordic) and Facebook throughout the competition, which runs until 16 December.