Russian skiers have swept the board at long distance biathlon races in Oberried, Germany, at the finals of the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup, claiming victories in all races and taking a total of 14 out of a possible 18 podium places on Saturday (25 January).
Whilst three non-Russian athletes hold world titles from the 2013 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships in Solleftea, Sweden, it was all change in freezing, partly cloudy conditions in the Black Forest, just weeks before Sochi 2014.
Host nation Russia began their takeover with a win for World Cup leading sit-skier Roman Petushkov (41:08.9). The five-time Solleftea 2013 champion beat teammates Aleksandr Davidovich (41:59.5) and short distance world champion Grigory Murygin (42:41.2), with Murygin the only skier to drop a shot throughout the 15km race.Japan's world champion Kozo Kubo finished seventh, over four seconds behind the leader.
World Cup leader Azat Karachurin (39:45.1) led Ukrainian middle distance biathlon champion Ihor Reptyukh (40:36.9) onto the men's standing podium, leading at all four split times. France's Benjamin Daviet finished with a flourish in the final 3km to grab third place (41:00.7).
Triple biathlon world champion Mikhalina Lysova showed that she will be difficult to stop come March in an attempt to catch up with teammate World Cup leader Iuliia Budaleeva. Lysova and guide Alexey Ivanov finished in 36:18.9, leading Budaleeva with guide Tatiana Maltseva (36:43.0) and third place compatriot Elena Remizova, guided by Natalia Yakimova (38:00.3). The battle for the overall visually impaired World Cup title will now be decided in the middle distance races on Sunday (26 January).
Marta Zaynullina (44:47.0) finally broke the recent dominance of German world champion Andrea Eskau in the women's 12.5km sitting race. The 23-year-old sits just marginally behind teammate Svetlana Konovalova in the World Cup rankings, with Konovalova having to settle for second this time around (44:55.9). Nadezda Andreeva completes the podium in third (47:00.8).
The ongoing exchange of men's visually impaired podium places took a turn in favour of Stanislav Chokhlaev (38:53.5) and guide Maksim Pirogov with a convincing win over Russian World Cup No.1 Nikolay Polukhin (40:47.8). Whilst Polukhin, guided by Andrey Tokarev, has already run away with the overall crown for 2013-14, he could not catch Chokhlaev this time, dropping two shots. Ukrainian Anatolli Kovalevskyi and guide Oleksandr Mukshin improved in the final 6km to snatch third (41:03.5).
Reigning world champion Anna Milenina (35:44.6) and teammate Alena Kaufman (36.15.1) were split by Ukrainian Oleksandr Kononova (37.29.0) in the women's standing.
Action in Oberried continues on Sunday with the conclusion of the 2013-14 biathlon IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup in middle distance races.
From 7 March, athletes will compete in a total of 18 medal events at the Laura Cross-Country and Biathlon Centre at Sochi 2014.
Current World Cup and overall 2013-14 rankings for cross-country and biathlon can be found online.
Photos can be downloaded at http://www.flickr.com/photos/paralympic/.