Paralympic champion Oksana Masters showed her grit and resilience once again to take the opening gold of the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships, which began on Saturday (16 February) in Prince George, Canada.
Masters had to come from behind in the final lap to defeat US teammate Kendall Gretsch in the first of the day’s biathlon middle distance races; the women’s sitting.
Germany’s veteran PyeongChang 2018 champion Andrea Eskau took bronze.
The local fans are enjoying Canada’s first Para Nordic Worlds, with plenty of interested spectators on hand – even a moose could be seen taking in the early action on the course!
The race conditions were on the chilly side, with temperatures hovering around - 11 degrees Celsius at race time.
But that didn’t bother Taras Rad of Ukraine, another PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic champion, in the men’s sitting event.
The 19-year-old led from start to finish, shooting perfectly on the range and powering his way to a gold medal. He showed once again he could be a dominant force for years to come.
“This is my first ever gold medal at a world championship,” Rad said. “I have a lot of emotions. I’m speechless.”
Canada’s Collin Cameron thrilled the hometown fans with his first Worlds medal, finishing second to Rad.
“It’s feels incredible. It’s totally unexpected,” Cameron said.
He added, “I’m super stoked to come here and do my best in front of the home crowd. It’s awesome.”
The 30-year-old only started competing in the sport in 2016.
Cameron’s outstanding performance seemed to motivate his teammate Brittany Hudak in the next race, the women’s standing.
Hudak set a blistering early pace. But in the end, she couldn’t fend off an impressive showing by Ukraine, who finished with a podium sweep.
Liudmyla Liashenko took gold, ahead of Yuliia Batenkova-Bauman and Oleksandra Kononova.
Liashenko said it’s taken years of hard work and credits her coach and service team for helping her win gold.
“I’m really happy and proud for my teammates who also shared the podium with me. It’s a proud moment for our country,” she said.
Paralympic champion Benjamin Daviet of France continued his fine form from earlier this season.
He was well out in front, winning gold and carrying the tricolour French flag with him across the finish line to celebrate.
Daviet said everything came together for the win.
“Very good shooting, very good skiing and Mark Arendz is a good athlete, but he had one miss.”
Arendz, one of Canada’s stars from PyeongChang where he won six medals, finished in third place to continue a good first day for the host nation.
Arendz was edged out for the silver by a strong finish from Nils-Erik Ulset of Norway.
“There’s a lot of nerves going into a home event, so it was nice just to get this first day out of the way. Now we can focus on the rest of the week and feeling comfortable where we are,” Arendz said.
Women’s vision impaired
In the women’s vision impaired race, Clara Klug of Germany, who leads the World Cup standings, won gold with her guide Martin Hartyl.
It cost the German such an effort that she laid flat out on the snow after crossing the finish line, too tired to even remove her skis. While she was happy with her skiing, she was not crazy about her shooting.
“We got what we wanted. But I want to do better in the shooting range. Maybe my mind is getting a little looser now and there’s not too much stress anymore,” she said.
Paralympic champion Oksana Shyshkova had to settle for silver alongside guide Vitaliy Kazakov, with her Ukrainian teammate Andriana Kapustei and guide Nazur Stefurak taking bronze
Men’s vision impaired
In the men’s vision impaired race, another PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic champion, Yury Holub of Belarus, won gold leading the way from the opening lap alongside his guide Dzmitry Budzilovich.
Ukraine’s Vitaliy Luk’yanenko with guide Borys Babar finished second, with France’s Anthony Chalencon completing the podium with guide Simone Valverde.
Prince George 2019 continues on Sunday with the middle distance events for cross-country. You can watch all the action live on the World Para Nordic Skiing website where live results are also available.