Oksana Masters: The fight for fitness

Paralympic champion weighs up Worlds expectations 11 Feb 2019
By Louise Wood | For World Para Nordic Skiing

Oksana Masters has experienced more emotions in one year that most athletes probably do over their entire career. At the start of 2018 she was preparing for the Winter Paralympics in PyeongChang, South Korea, where she was one of the favourites to medal. She then suffered an elbow injury which put her participation in doubt.

Subsequently she was able to compete but fell in a biathlon race and caused further damage to her elbow. Remarkably she still went on to win two gold medals in the cross-country sprint and short races.

"Life after PyeongChang has been good and bad," said Masters. "Good because I got to share my success with all my sponsors and friends and family that helped me to get to where I was able to accomplish."

Elbow surgery

"Then March 31 right after the Games I had my first surgery and got a couple of screws," continued Masters. "I was on a long road to recovery from that but I hit a bump in the road and needed to have another surgery just three months ago and that was a bit of a surprise."

"I wasn't expecting that and so now for a month and a half I have been able to get back into training and start remembering what it feels like to hurt again and train again."

Despite the setbacks she was able to get back to winning ways in the first two World Cup rounds in Vuokatti, Finland, and Ostersund, Sweden. She won both cross-country sprint races and the middle distance in Ostersund.

Managing expectations

The injury and subsequent recovery has meant that she now has to manage her season carefully and also rethink her goals.

"My expectations for the World Championships are not quite what I originally thought after the Games and the first surgery," explained Masters. "Considering I needed to have more surgery and I am still in the recovery phase I'm just focusing on this as a whole building year."

The World Championships take place next week in Prince George, Canada, and Masters will give it her best shot, but she is taking a long-range view of things.

"I'm going to do my best and give it my all at World Championships in Canada but I'm putting it in perspective and the next four cycles are my main goal. I'm being ambitious with trying to qualify for Tokyo 2020 [Paralympics] as well. But I'm definitely going to put in a lot of work and see where that gets me."

Unfinished business

Masters just missed out on a medal at the Rio 2016 Paralympics where she competed in cycling and she is keen to have another go at making it on to the podium at a summer Games.

"The goal is to make the team. I have unfinished business from Rio that I want to accomplish in Tokyo hopefully."

For more information on the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships visit the Prince George 2019 website.