Oksana Masters made history on the second day (12 February) of the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Finsterau, Germany, by winning her maiden world title to give the USA their first gold in the event.
The 27-year-old was the fastest in the women’s cross-country sprint sitting finishing ahead of Germany’s Andrea Eskau and Belarus’ Lidziya Hrafeyeva, who completed the podium.
“I am so excited, oh my God. I am speechless, I do not know what to say!” said Masters fresh from taking gold.
“Anything can happen, this is a tricky course to make any kind of moves. I am so happy for the way I skied. I do not know how I am going to celebrate. I am going to sleep, I am so tired.”
In the men’s equivalent, Ukraine´s Maksym Yarovyi successfully defended his world title from Cable 2015. USA’s Andrew Soule collected silver and Norway´s Paralympic bronze medallist Trygve Steinar Larsen claimed bronze.
“I am very happy for winning this new gold medal,” said Yarovyi.
The rest of the cross-country sprint races witnesses a few surprises.
Ukraine´s Liudmyla Liashenko sprang a big shock in the women’s standing by finally beating her compatriot, defending champion and multiple-Paralympic gold medallist Oleksandra Kononova into silver in a close final. Iryna Bui finished third to secure an all-Ukrainian podium.
“I worked very hard, corrected the mistakes from previous races and this is consequence of that,” said Liashenko.
There was another Ukrainian winner in the men´s standing, with Ihor Reptyukh claiming the third Nordic skiing world title in his career, the first in cross-country.
Poland´s Witold Skupien finished second, whilst Reptyukh’s compatriot Grygorii Vovchynskii ended third to seal his second bronze in Finsterau.
The men´s visually impaired title was claimed by Sweden´s four-time Paralympic medallist Zebastian Modin, guided by Johannes Andersson. Ukraine´s Iurii Utkin with guide Ruslan Perekhoda, and France´s Thomas Clarion, guided by Antoine Bollet, followed him into the podium.
“One year ago, I was thinking of throwing the skis into the fire, of retiring because of so many injuries I suffered. And now being here is amazing,” said Modin.
The last gold medal of the day was won by Austria’s Carina Edlinger, guided by J.J. Edlinger, in front of a noisy and supportive crowd that never stopped cheering for her.
Ukraine´s cross-country World Cup overall leader Oksana Shyshkova won silver and Belarus’ Sviatlana Sakhanenka took the bronze.
“I did not know why but I was failing so many times and being here is a dream for me,” said Edlinger.
On Monday (13 February), there will be official training. The competition at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Finsterau will return on 14 February with the biathlon individual races. A total of 120 athletes from 20 countries are competing.
Live results and coverage from the 2017 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships are available at Finsterau2017.com.
Right free pictures for editorial use are available for download at www.flickr.com/photos/paralympic/.
Broadcast quality race footage will also available on request by contacting [email protected].
The competition can also be followed on Facebook.com/ParaNordic, Twitter and Instagram (@ParaNordic).