"I dedicate this medal to my mother and my family. I give my thanks to my mother for caring for me when I was in the hospital."
Roman Petushkov kick-started a dominant day for the Russian team on Saturday (8 March), as they collected nine medals in the biathlon competition to open the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
Petushkov, Alena Kaufman, Mikhalina Lysova and Vladislav Lekomtcev all won gold as Russia dominated the top of the podium. The rest of the Russian total was made up of four silvers and a bronze medal.
Petushkov claimed his first ever Paralympic gold medal with a flawless performance in the men’s 7.5km sitting event. He did not miss a single shot at the range and crossed the line in 21:03.7, eight seconds ahead of Ukraine’s silver medallist Maksym Yarovyi. Japan’s Kozo Kubo finished in 21:45.6 to collect the bronze medal.
Petushkov lost his legs in a car accident back in 2006 and decided to dedicate his very special win to his mother on International Women’s Day.
"I dedicate this medal to my mother and my family. I give my thanks to my mother for caring for me when I was in the hospital,” Petushkov said.
In the women’s 6km standing event, Kaufman and Anna Milenina provided the host nation with its first one-two finish. Kaufman finished in 18:27.2 with her compatriot Melinina reaching the end of the course 30 seconds later after missing two of her shots on the range.
Ukraine’s two-time Paralympian Iuliia Batenkova added a fifth bronze medal to take her total Paralympic tally to 10 medals.
"Third place is normal for me, but today is just the first day of competition which is for warming up for the bigger races,” Batenkova said.
Russia also claimed a one-two finish in the women’s 6km visually impaired biathlon through world champion Lysova and Iuliia Budaleeva. Ukraine’s Oksana Shyshkova stopped any chance of a Russian sweep as she beat Elena Remizova for third place.
Lysova was almost two minutes ahead at the 4km stage, allowing her to finish in first place without any pressure. She finished the course with guide Alexey Ivanov in 20:03.2. Budaleeva and her guide Tatiana Maltseva followed in 20:31.7. Shyshkova finished almost 20 seconds (20:49.0) behind.
Another Russian, Nikolay Polukhin, began his quest to better his tally of six medals from the Vancouver 2010 Games by claiming a silver in the men’s 7.5km visually impaired biathlon.
He was beaten by Ukrainian Vitaliy Lukyanenko who crossed the line in a time of 20:18.8. Polukhin and his guide Andrey Tokarev followed 10 seconds later with Vasili Shaptsiaboi from Belarus claiming the bronze.
In the women’s 6km sitting event, Germany’s Andrea Eskau joined a unique list of summer and winter Paralympic gold medallists.
The 42-year-old, who also won two gold medals in handcycling at London 2012, led all the way along the course to finish in an impressive time of 19:12.4 and earn her first Winter Paralympic gold.
Russia’s Svetlana Konovalova followed Eskau in 19:31.1, while Ukraine’s Vancouver 2010 gold medallist Olena Iurkovska finished eight seconds (19:39.6) behind for a bronze medal
“I want to win another gold tomorrow,” Eskau said after the race.
Reigning world champion Mark Arendz from Canada had to settle for silver in the men’s 7.5km standing biathlon, as the 23-year-old watched Russia’s Vladislav Lekomtcev cross the line for gold in 19:13.7.
Nonetheless, Arendz managed to drive himself home in 19:14.4 with Russian Azat Karachurin finishing 0.5 seconds later for bronze.