Ukraine’s Oleksandra Kononova has started the Para Nordic skiing season with a bang. The triple biathlon world champion won the sprint and long distance at the World Cup in Vuokatti, Finland, putting her top of the women’s standing rankings after the first major event of the season.
Several of her teammates also performed strongly and expectations are high ahead of Ukraine’s maiden World Cup at the Western Center from 13-20 January.
Having won six world titles across cross-country and biathlon at the World Championships in 2015, Kononova shared her hopes and expectations for Western Center, as well as for the 2017 Worlds in Finsterau, Germany, and the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
“The World Cup in Ukraine will be a great occasion,” Kononova said. “This is the first time our country will have hosted such a high profile event and we are really proud to welcome the other nations. We feel even more responsibility to perform well. We hope that each victory will show our country’s sporting strength and power. We are ready.”
Kononova not only wants to perform well on her home course; she wants to win medals.
“Yes, I’m sure I could win a medal. We have worked really hard with my coach. We performed well during the first series [in Vuokatti]. Of course, it wasn’t a perfect performance, there were some mistakes which I want to eliminate. But we will do our best to win,” she continued.
While athletes want to do well at every World Cup, there is a bigger goal in mind - the World Championships from 10-19 February.
“Every series helps us become stronger and prepares us for the World Championships, regardless of whether it is at home or not. But I will feel more responsibility and have more thoughts and emotions, being in front of a home crowd. We should train even harder as we are skiing in Ukraine on our own routes.”
Having won several Paralympic golds at both Vancouver 2010 and Sochi 2014, Kononova has high hopes for PyeongChang 2018.
“There isn’t long to go until the Paralympic Games, but we still have time to get better. Every year we improve our skills and performances. We have laid the foundation, built the walls and roof, and now it is time for the decoration work! We want to correct any mistakes, improve our technique and build power. We will be as ready as possible for PyeongChang,” she concluded.
Live results will be available for the Western Center World Cup at World Para Nordic Skiing’s website. It is the last major competition ahead of the Worlds.
The Finsterau 2017 World Para Nordic Skiing Championships will gather 135 of the world’s best biathletes and cross-country skiers from 25 countries in Finsterau between 10-19 February. They will be followed by the PyeongChang 2018 Test Event from 10-15 March.