PyeongChang 2018: Double delight for USA in day of biathlon surprises
American biathletes shock the sitting field to make history on first day of competition10 Mar 2018
By Louise Wood | For the IPC
There were unexpected victories on the first day of biathlon at PyeongChang 2018 as the American duo of Daniel Cnossen and Kendall Gretsch both claimed gold in the sitting event.
Neither athlete had won a race previously so victory at the Paralympics was a major shock. The pair made history by becoming the first US athletes – Olympic or Paralympic – to win biathlon gold at a Games.
"It's incredible. I'm just really excited to be here,” said Gretsch. “It's my first Paralympics, first race, so it's just a great way to kick off the week and hopefully there is more to come.”
She was followed home by teammate Oksana Masters and Lidziya Hrafeyeva of Belarus who took silver and bronze respectively.
Cnossen, a former Navy seal, was stunned at the end of his race.
"I'm feeling a little overwhelmed right now. Today I just focused on what I can do and nothing else mattered. "
The silver medal went to Dzmitry Loban, the husband and coach of Hrafeyeva, making it double success for Belarus and the family. Canada’s Collin Cameron took the bronze which was also unpredicted.
If the sitting results were a surprise then standing races went exactly to plan. Neutral Paralympic Athlete Ekaterina Rumyantseva won the race despite missing one shot. She easily out skied Anna Milenina who won the silver.
“I don't feel that I won. It is so unexpected. I have no words. I can't even believe that this is the Paralympics and it is my first."
The bronze medal went to World Champion Liudmyla Liashenko of Ukraine.
Frenchman Benjamin Daviet won the men’s race collecting his first individual Paralympic medal to add to the relay bronze he won in Sochi. "It was a wonderful race. I'm so, so happy about what happened today. It was perfect.”
He had to fight off strong competition from Mark Arendz of Canada in second and Ihor Reptyukh in third. These three have arrived in PyeongChang at the peak of their form and will be battling each other for medals until the end of the Games.
Mikhalina Lysova became the double Paralympic champion repeating her success from Sochi in the visually impaired 6km. With guide Alexey Ivanov she won the race comfortably beating World Champion Oksana Shyshkova with guide Vitaliy Kazakov into second place by nearly forty seconds.
The bronze went to Sviatlana Sakhanenka and guide Raman Yashchanka adding another medal for Belarus.
Her teammate Yury Holub guided by Dzmitry Buzilovich had the gold medal within his grasp in the men’s race but one missed target cost him the victory. Shooting clean and becoming double Paralympic champion was Vitaliy Luk’yanenko and guide Ivan Marchyshak of Ukraine who took advantage of Holub’s error. The bronze went his teammate and World Champion Anatolii Kovalevskyi guided by Oleksandr Mukshin giving the Ukrainian team a fifth medal of the day.
The Para Nordic focus switches to cross-country skiing on Sunday (11 March) with the men’s 15km and women’s 12km sitting events.