The world’s best Para Nordic skiers will get the opportunity to race at the venue for the next Paralympic Winter Games from Friday (10 March), as the PyeongChang 2018 Test Event and World Cup gets underway at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre.
Live results, athlete quotes and pictures will be available at: http://releasd.com/5823/ipc-test-event-updates-10-18-march-world-para-snowboard-world-para-alpine-skiing-and-world-para-nordic-skiing-world-cups
The event, which follows the Finsterau 2017 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships, will feature cross-country long, middle and sprint distances, and biathlon individual and sprint races.
The World Cup Finals will follow swiftly afterwards in Sapporo, Japan, between 18-22 March.
Sweden’s medal hopes rest with World Cup cross-country leader Zebastian Modin and guide Johannes Andersson in the men’s visually impaired. The 22-year-old is fresh from winning one gold and two silvers in Finsterau.
“I am very satisfied with my performance at the Worlds,” he said. “Now I am looking forward to racing again and fight to finish as the World Cup overall winner, something I have never achieved before.”
France’s Finsterau 2017 double medallist Thomas Clarion, guided by Antoine Bollet, will be his strongest contender.
In the biathlon, Ukraine’s world champion Anatolii Kovalevskyi, guided by Oleksandr Mukshyn, is hoping to defend his No.1 position in the overall rankings. But he needs to be at his best to beat compatriot and Finsterau 2017 gold medallist Iurii Utkin, guided by Ruslan Perekhoda.
After achieving a hat-trick of world titles at the Worlds, Ukrainian Oksana Shyshkova, guided by Vitalii Kazakov, will be hoping to maintain her No.1 position in both the women’s cross-country and biathlon visually impaired World Cup overall rankings.
But her teammate Olga Prylutska, guided by Volodymyr Ivanov, is a skier to be reckoned with in the biathlon, especially after winning the middle distance world title.
Austria’s double world champion Carina Edlinger, with her brother and guide Julian Edlinger, will be Shyshkova’s main rival in the cross-country. “I want to see the course and check everything which could be helpful for me ahead of PyeongChang 2018,” said the 18-year-old.
The men’s standing is arguably the most competitive category, with multiple world champions fighting to finish the season on top.
France’s Benjamin Daviet and Canada’s Mark Arendz will go head-to-head in the biathlon. “It will be interested to see the course again,” said Arendz, who already competed in PyeongChang, South Korea, at the 2016 Asian Cup.
“Last year’s experience was a really nice way to see the trails and the area around. Now I will see the weather conditions and try to get the right time. This will be a more serious testing and preparation for next year.”
In the cross-country, Ukraine’s two-time world champion Ihor Reptyukh could end the year as world No.1. His teammate Grygorii Vovchynskyi still seeks to cause an upset.
Two Ukrainians will also be battling out for gold in the women’s standing, in both the cross-country and biathlon events.
Multiple-Paralympic champion Oleksandra Kononova leads both rankings and is the favourite to keep that position. But Liudmyla Liashenko had an outstanding performance in Finsterau by winning two titles in each sport and will be a hard-to-beat opponent.
“Everything went as planned at the beginning of the season and now I am hoping to have a successful performance in PyeongChang as well,” said Liashenko.
Ukraine’s triple world champion and World Cup No.1 Maksym Yarovyi will be the overwhelming favourite in the men’s cross-country sitting.
His compatriot Taras Rad leads the overall rankings in biathlon. But only 50 points separate him from Germany’s Martin Fleig, who after winning two golds on home soil in Finsterau seeks to end the season as the World Cup No.1.
Following her glittering performance at this year’s World Championships, where she won three golds in cross-country, few will doubt the potential of USA’s overall rankings leader Oksana Masters. Belarus’ Lidziya Hrafeyeva and Germany’s Andrea Eskau will try to spring a surprise.
In the biathlon, both Hrafeyeva and Germany’s world champion and World Cup leader Anja Wicker appear as the strongest contenders.
Competition in PyeongChang gets underway on Friday with the middle distance biathlon and runs until 15 March.
Live results from both the World Cup and World Cup Finals will be available at World Para Nordic Skiing’s website.