Para Snow Sports World Championships
12-23 January 2022

Royals crown six new champions as hosts strike cross-country gold on first day

Vilde Nilsen puts Norway on top of the podium while RPC and USA collect two gold medals each as action gets underway in Lillehammer 13 Jan 2022
A female skier celebrating on a cross-country track
Norway's Vilde Nilsen celebrates her gold medal in the women's standing middle distance classic a day after her birthday
ⒸGisle Johnsen/Lillehammer 2021
By Lena Smirnova and Paloma Gutierrez | For World Para Snow Sports

Vilde Nilsen is no stranger to the sensation of becoming a world champion. The gold medal the Norwegian skier won on the first race day of the Lillehammer 2021 World Para Snow Sports Championships, however, felt especially rewarding. 

A four-time winner at the previous edition of the World Championships three years ago, Nilsen struck gold in the women’s standing middle distance classic one day after her 21st birthday, on the tracks she has made her home training ground in the lead up to Lillehammer 2021. 

To top it off, the athlete received her gold medal from the Crown Prince of Norway Haakon and the Crown Princess Mette-Marit.

“It’s amazing,” Nilsen said. “I was so nervous for today and to do my best day and to win a gold medal, it means a lot to me. And to do it here. My family is up there cheering in the courses and that made me a lot stronger today so I’m very thankful for today’s victory.”

Nilsen reached the finish line at the Birkebeineren Ski and Biathlon Stadium 1:36.3 seconds ahead of USA’s Sydney Peterson, who took a silver in her Worlds debut, and Ukraine’s Paralympic champion Liudmyla Liashenko who finished third.


Team USA emerged as one of the biggest winners of the day, collecting two gold and one silver medal. 

Jake Adicoff gave the team a good start when he won the first gold medal of Lillehammer 2021. 

The victory in the men’s vision impaired long-distance race was also an important personal milestone for the USA skier who has not reached the podium at a major competition since taking a silver at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games.

“It feels really good to get here and get that first podium,” Adicoff said. “We’re looking for a lot of success [at Beijing 2022] and using this to prep for that. It’s sweet to start out with this podium to set us on that path.”

RPC’s Stanislav Chokhlaev finished second in the men’s vision impaired event with Belarus’ Yury Holub wrapping up the podium.

Later in the day Adicoff’s teammate Kendall Gretsch also brought USA the gold in the women’s sitting event, overcoming Belarus’ cross-country specialist Valiantsina Shyts and Germany’s ski veteran Anja Wicker.

This World Championships victory comes less than five months since Gretsch won gold in Para triathlon at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games.

“It’s been a quick turnaround,” Gretsch said. “It’s been a fun year for sure.”


The athletes representing RPC picked up the most medals overall, including two gold, two silver, and three bronze.

Vladislav Lekomtsev continued his dominant streak from the World Cup circuit with a victory in the men’s standing race, ahead of Poland’s Witold Skupien and fellow RPC skier Aleksandr Pronkov. 

Lillehammer 2021 was the first major competition for Lekomtsev since the 2015 World Championships where he won a medal in each of his six races.

“Our team has not taken part in such large competitions for a long time and I’m really pleased to be the second gold medallist,” Lekomtsev said. “This is a good start and I hope we will continue in the same way.”

His compatriots Ivan Golubkov and Danila Britik also delivered medal performances in the men’s sitting event, collecting gold and bronze, respectively. 

Italy’s breakout star Giuseppe Romele finished with the silver.

Anna Panferova and Vera Khlyzova also added to RPC’s medal count with a silver and bronze in the women’s vision impaired event, coming behind Belarus’ Sviatlana Sakhanenka.

It is the first world title for the three-time Paralympic champion from Belarus. Sakhanenka previously won silver and two bronze medals at the 2017 World Championships. 


The cross-country events at the Lillehammer 2021 World Championships continue with the long-distance freestyle race on Tuesday, 18 January.

Due to weather conditions, the Para alpine skiing downhill races were postponed to Friday, 14 January, also the opening day of Para snowboard with the dual-banked slalom events.

All Lillehammer 2021 events will be streamed live on the World Para Snow Sports Facebook page and the Para alpine skiing, Para Nordic skiing and Para snowboard websites.

Pictures for editorial purposes will be available on Flickr.