At the 2013 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships in Solleftea, Sweden, Russia had a superb first day, with four out of six gold medals going to them in the cross-country head-to-head sprint events on Monday (25 February).
Roman Petushkov started the medal spell, taking home the first gold medal for Russia ahead of his compatriots Ramil Ilalutdinov and Igor Kuznetsov in the cross-country sprint sitting classification. Petushkov had already looked strong in the qualification round and semi-final and lived up to everyone’s expectations in the final.
The women’s sit-ski race brought out a bit of a surprise, with Maria Iovleva winning the second gold for Russia in the second race of the day. Iovleva had won the silver medal in the same race two years ago at the 2011 World Championships in Khanty Mansyisk, Russia.
Ukrainian Paralympic silver medallist Olena Iurkovska finished in second place, and the bronze medal went to Mariann Marthinsen of Norway.
Martinsen said after the race: “It was a very tough race, a very tough downhill and I had a fall in the semi-final. But I pulled through OK and I thought I could win the silver medal. But the Ukrainian girl was too strong in the end and I had nothing left.”
While Ukraine’s Oleksandra Kononova was the hot favourite in the women’s standing category, it was home favourite Helena Ripa who took the gold medal.
“It’s incredible. I was not expecting this because of the track,” said Ripa, who just started skiing three years ago.
“It went OK in the semi-final and I got a good feeling for the final. My goal was to make it to the final, this is just unbelievable.”
Kononova had to settle for bronze behind Belarus’ Larysa Varona.
The men’s standing category was the closest race of the day, with a photo-finish between Norway’s Vegard Dahle and Russia’s Vladislav Lekomtcev. Dahle closed in on Lekomtcev on the home straight but Lekomtcev got his foot across the finish line first. The bronze medal went to Russia’s Rushan Minnegulov.
In the women’s visually impaired category, it was another medal sweep for Russia with defending world champion and Paralympic silver medallist Mikhalina Lysova (guide Alexey Ivanov) taking gold ahead of teammates Elena Remizova (guide Natalia Yakimova) and Iuliia Budaleeva (guide Tatiana Maltseva). Lysova looked strong in the final and didn’t let her teammates come close.
Home favourite and Paralympic bronze medallist Zebastian Modin (guide Albin Ackerot) took home a silver medal behind Paralympic and world champion Brian McKeever (guide Erik Carleton). Due to his classification, McKeever started 36 seconds behind Modin and moved past him on the last climb of the track, also leaving his own guide behind. Ukraine’s Oleg Ponomarev (guide Artem Veselov) finished in third place.