Oksana Masters’ magnificent comeback

Six different nations win sprint races in Vuokatti 17 Dec 2018
female sit skier Oksana Masters pushing through the snow

Oksana Masters won her first race since being crowned Paralympic champion at PyeongChang 2018

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By Louise Wood | For World Para Nordic Skiing

Oksana Masters started her first race since the Paralympic Winter Games on day four of the Vuokatti World Cup and won it in some style. The PyeongChang 2018 champion faced a tough challenge in the women's sitting cross-country sprint from Norway's Birgit Skarstein in second and Germany's Andrea Eskau who was third. After a long break from racing the US sit skier was surprised she performed so well.

"I did not expect this," said an overwhelmed Masters after the race. "I haven't been training for as long as I would like to start a World Cup race but this result is thanks to our wax technician and the team.

“I have a lot of work to do still but it's an amazing feeling to be fighting with Birgit who is skiing really well, Andrea and my teammate Kendall (Gretsch) who is doing amazing. It's a really cool feeling."

Due to the elbow injury that she suffered before the Paralympics, Masters underwent two surgeries that required a long period of recovery.

"I had a second surgery two months ago. It's not 100% yet but it's doing good," she said of her elbow. "I had an amazing USOC staff in Colorado Springs where I spent most of my summer recovering. I would say their magic is pretty good because I am recovering well."

The men's sitting race was won by Canada's Collin Cameron. He was the fastest qualifier and won his semi-final before a dominant display of speed saw him clinch the gold medal.

"It feels excellent," said Cameron at the finish line. " I just wanted to go out there and put everything into it and hopefully get a solid result today and getting first, it's awesome."

Ukraine's Taras Rad finished in second place and American Daniel Cnossen continued his top form in third meaning he has been on the podium in every race so far.

Edlinger wins again

Carina Edlinger of Austria and guide Florian Seiwald won the women's vision impaired race with a convincing victory over Oksana Shyshkova and guide Vitaliy Kazakovn second and Johanna Recktenwald and guide Simon Schmidt in third. Like Masters she has also had a difficult summer.

"I'm more than happy, " said a delighted Edlinger. "For me it's like therapy what I'm doing. After the Paralympics I really crashed and even needed help to move around and so for me it's more than incredible to stand here again."

She has also suffered this week with a few falls out on the tracks and was unsure whether or not to start the race.

"In the beginning of today we discussed if I should race or not. I said well I am here and I want to race and the result doesn't matter. For me to be here and just enjoy it is absolutely great."

Modin betters McKeever

The men's vision impaired saw the next round in the fight between Sweden’s Zebastian Modin and Canada’s multi-Paralympic champion Brian McKeever. They had one win each so far in Vuokatti and it was Modin who won the sprint to tip the balance in his favour. Yury Holub from Belarus was third.

Polish skier Witold Skupien crossed the line first in the men's standing race. In a close finish he edged out Ukraine's Grygorii Vovchynski and Japan's Taiki Kawayoke to add a gold medal to the silver he won in the 5km race.

The women's standing race saw Norway’s Vilde Nilson increase her World Cup lead and has now won all three cross-country races here in Finland. She was by far the fastest skier on the day leaving Natalie Wilkie of Canada to take second and Liudmyla Liashenko in third.

The next action from Vuokatti is the biathlon sprint on Tuesday 18th December.