“I would be extremely excited to bring home gold for Team USA but I am focusing on one race at a time and just letting my body do what it has been training to do and hopefully it will land me on the top of the podium."
USA’s Oksana Masters has only one thing on her mind this season – winning medals for her country at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.
“I would be extremely excited to bring home gold for Team USA but I am focusing on one race at a time and just letting my body do what it has been training to do and hopefully it will land me on the top of the podium,” she said.
She won a bronze and a silver medal at the Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia, in 2014 but her sights are justifiably set higher for PyeongChang.
“I would love to upgrade the silver medal in the cross country long distance in Sochi to a gold and I would love to earn a spot anywhere on the podium for a biathlon event.”
Recently named as a 2017-18 One to Watch in Nordic skiing by the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), the 28-year-old enjoyed amazing success last season. She ended first in the overall World Cup standings as well as claiming four golds at the World Championships in Finsterau, Germany. She made a clean sweep of the three cross country races and also secured gold in the biathlon sprint sitting.
“Winning four golds at a World Championships this year definitely helps me enter this new season and the Paralympic year with confidence. I would say the confidence it has given me is to believe in myself and have the confidence to ski more aggressively and challenge myself.”
Masters faces a massive challenge if she wants to maintain her level and perform well in PyeongChang.
“Honestly my training this year is all focused on being ready for the Paralympic Winter Games in March. Every time I’m on the start line I want to have my best race and a good result. So this year it’s going to be more mentally challenging in the sense that my goal is to not peak for each World Cup.”
Masters is realistic about her chances of doing both in one season.
“I would absolutely love to defend the World Cup title this year but it will be difficult to do since our team is only going to go to the first two World Cups of the season and then stay home after Germany to train. So I will be missing a whole World Cup which will make it hard to retain.”
She will head to South Korea as one of the favourites to win medals in both cross country and biathlon. Her fantastic season in 2016/17 has given her extra motivation and she will arrive at her second Winter Paralympics with a lot more experience.
“Last season definitely gave me more motivation but at the same time I’m not going to approach the start line of my races with the thought ‘I have to get gold’. I am so excited to enter PyeongChang more experienced in ski racing and shooting which gives me confidence.”
Since Masters competes in both Nordic disciplines she will have to be very careful about which events she chooses to enter. It’s a tough schedule and too much racing could hand her competitors an advantage.
“It is a very gruelling schedule and will be difficult to balance both the skiing and biathlon events,” she explained. “I know for sure I will be in all the cross country events and possibly all of the biathlon at the moment.”
“That’s going to be tough because some of my competitors only do cross country which means on the days where I will be competing back to back they will be recovering and be fresh for the cross country events.”