Missed shots and penalty minutes made for an exciting day of individual biathlon racing at the World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup in Oberried, Germany where champions were dethroned and new victors emerged.
There was a big upset in the women’s sitting race as USA’s golden girl, Oksana Masters, struggled on the shooting range after taking first place in all four previous races in Oberried, including the biathlon sprint.
Masters missed a total of six shots in the individual race and even though she was fifth across the finish line, the devastating six-minute penalty dragged her down to ninth place. This was only the second time that Masters finished off the podium in this season’s World Cup. The first time was a disqualification for an early start in the cross-country sprint in Canmore.
With Masters out of medal contention, the field was wide open for other athletes to step up their game.
Neutral athlete Irina Guliaeva, who finished third in this race in Canmore, shot cleanly and took the lead from the start. And while fellow neutral athlete Marta Zainullina, who was second in Canmore, crossed the finish line more than a minute ahead of her teammate, the penalties she received for two missed shots moved her down to second.
Another neutral athlete Natalia Kocherova finished third, also with a clean shooting slate like Guliaeva.
In the men’s standing race, it all came down to a test of skiing skill as each of the top three finishers shot perfectly in the range and it was only their skiing speed that decided the winner.
France’s Benjamin Daviet, who has a gold medal in this event from the earlier World Cup stage in Canmore, Canada, dominated the race from the start. He took an early lead, shot cleanly and skied aggressively to the finish line.
For most of the race Daviet’s main rivals were Canada’s Mark Arendz and neutral athlete Vladislav Lekomtsev, but both athletes missed two shots in the range, which ultimately cost them the podium.
Instead, it was Alkesandr Pronkov, a neutral athlete with a clean shooting streak, who got second while Norway’s Nils-Erik Ulset took third spot.
Neutral athlete Ivan Golubkov extended his winning streak in the sitting World Cup biathlon events to five out of five victories. The young athlete missed a shot on the first lap, which dropped him down to eighth place, but shot cleanly in all the later laps to finish in top spot with more than a 2-minute lead over his teammate Aleksandr Davidovich.
Ukraine’s teenage talent Taras Rad started off in the lead of the pack, but dropped down to third after taking two time penalties for missed shots.
It was the same podium lineup in the women’s standing event where two neutral athletes, Ekaterina Rumyantseva and Anna Milenina, took the top two spots with Ukraine’s Iryna Bui finishing third.
Milenina crossed the finish line almost a minute ahead of Rumyantseva, but was bumped to second place after receiving a two-minute penalty for missing shots on the middle laps.
Bui was the only one of the three who shot cleanly, but her slower skiing time didn’t allow her to overtake the leaders.
In the men’s vision impaired race, neutral athlete Stanislav Chokhlaev followed up on his gold medal from the biathlon sprint with another gold in the individual.
Meanwhile, his rival Anatolii Kovalevskyi of Ukraine had an uphill battle trying to take his first medal at this season’s World Cup. He missed shots on the first two laps and was in seventh position mid-way through the race. But the Ukrainian managed to improve his shooting in the final laps and added more energy to his strokes to earn second place.
Another neutral athlete, Nikolai Polukhin, was third.
In the women’s vision impaired, the race belonged to neutral athlete Mikhalina Lysova from the beginning. Lysova not only shot perfectly, but was also the fastest skier on the course.
Germany’s Clara Klug was Lysova’s main challenger throughout the race. But while the local star also did not miss any shots, she still finished more than three minutes behind Lysova.
Lysova’s teammate Elena Remizova was the second fastest skier of the day, crossing the finish line just 25.6 seconds behind the winner, but her missed shots cost her three added minutes in penalties and in the end she barely scraped into third position.
The World Cup in Oberried concludes on Sunday (28 January) when the biathlon pursuit race will be held. Complete results can be found on World Para Nordic Skiing’s website.