PyeongChang 2018: Sit-skiers in the spotlight

Cross-country athletes open their competition with their toughest race at Alpensia 11 Mar 2018
a female sit skier in action

Oksana Masters starts as the overwhelming favourite in the women's cross-country long distance

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By Louise Wood | For the IPC

The first cross-country skiing event of these Paralympic Games will also be the hardest. The long distance is raced over 12km for the women and 15km for the men.

With some tough hills and higher temperatures making for difficult snow conditions on the course it will be the ultimate test for the sit-skiers.

The outstanding favourite to win the women's competition is USA’s Oksana Masters. Even her opponents believe she has the best chance of claiming the gold medal.

“It will be very, very difficult to beat her, not just for me but for everybody. She's the favourite,” said Andrea Eskau, who will be one of her main rivals on the day.

Eskau has already beaten Masters earlier this season in Canmore, Canada and should be confident of taking a medal herself.

Masters finished third overall in the World Cup standings but she did miss the final round in Vuokatti to concentrate on her Olympic preparation.

“This is the first time I'm entering feeling really confident in myself, in my skiing, knowing that I put in four full years in focusing for this. And confidence is huge,” explained Masters.

Should Master suffer from any fatigue after her silver medal in the biathlon sprint on Saturday, there are plenty of opponents ready to take her place.

Neutral Paralympic Athlete Marta Zainullina has been consistently good over the whole season and will be in the hunt for medals. Irina Guliaeva and Nadezhda Fedorova who have both featured on the podium in the 12km will also have hopes of winning a medal.

The men’s race is more open with the number one and two in the world absent. Ukraine’s Makysm Yarovyi has finished third twice over the distance this season and will be the favourite to stand on the top of the podium. However, he had a disastrous race in the biathlon sprint on Saturday where he fell in the soft snow conditions. His main competition could come from his teammates and one of the youngest men on the tour Taras Rad.

Newly crowned gold medallist in biathlon Daniel Cnossen will be full of confidence after his performance on Saturday.

"Since Sochi I have focused more on the cross-country. I was pretty new then and I had been training for three years and now it is four years later, so a lot of the training has accumulated.”

His US teammate Andy Soule would also like to add to his bronze medal from Sochi.

“Of course I’d love medals. I can't necessarily control how well everyone else skis on any given day, but I want six medal performances.”

Other possible medal winners include South Korea’s Eui Hyun Sin who was fourth in the first biathlon race and China’s Peng Zheng who has already finished on the podium in the cross country long distance race this season in Canada.

The men’s race will also feature athletes from Iran and North Korea after their participation at the World Cup in Oberried, Germany assisted by the Agitos Foundation.

Every competition as well as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies can be watched live right here on the International Paralympic Committee’s website. Highlights of each day’s action will also be made available.