“Nice weather, nice conditions. I tried to improve some things in the summer, so I was really nervous about my first race.”
Russian athletes have taken 13 out of 18 cross-country podium places on the opening day of the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup in Vuokatti , Finland on Wednesday (8 January).
In a continuation of the team’s form from the season opening World Cup in Canmore, Canada, in December, five-time world champion Roman Petushkov took first place in the men’s middle distance sitting (25:34.6) ahead of Ukrainian Maksym Yarovyi (25:42.1) and fellow Russian short distance biathlon world champion Grigory Murygin (25:49.1).
It was also a clean sweep for the home team of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, which start in less than 60 days’ time, in the women’s and men’s middle distance classic visually impaired events. Elena Remizova and guide Natalia Yakimova beat World champion Mikhalina Lysova guided by Alexey Ivanov in 14:38.2. Iuliia Budaleeva and guide Tatiana Maltseva (15:06.2) completed an entirely Russian podium.
Stanislav Chokleav followed up on his second place in the men’s race from Canmore with a first place on the 10km course (25:49.9) with guide Maksim Pirogiv, upsetting team-mate and world champion Nikolay Polukhin and guide Andrey Tokarev (26:05.5). Aleksandr Artemov guided by Ilya Cherapanov finished in third.
It was left to cross-country sprint world champion Andrea Eskau of Germany to prevent a Russia clean sweep in the women’s middle distance sitting in cloudy conditions, with light snow and temperatures just above freezing.
Eskau, who made her 2013-14 World Cup season debut in Vuokatti, won by 19.9 seconds in 14:26.1, leading another two Russians, Maria Iovleva (14:46.0) and Svetlana Konovalova (15:20.4), onto the podium.
“Nice weather, nice conditions. I tried to improve some things in the summer, so I was really nervous about my first race”, Eskau said.
“I have tried to improve my technique and I also got a new sledge. Then you are more nervous than normal.”
The two-time London 2012 Paralympic Games para-cycling champion and biathlon 12.5km world champion from the 2013 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships in Solleftea, Sweden, said:
“I am really excited also about biathlon races, I have also tried to improve my shooting. In Sochi I have better chances in cross-country skiing.”
Ukraine’s Oleksandr Kononova joined Eskau in keeping the Russians at bay in the women’s classic standing race, edging Russian free technique Canmore winner Alena Kaufman to the finish line in 15:08.1. Fellow Ukrainian and short distance biathlon and long distance freestyle cross-country world champion Iuliia Batenkova claimed third.
In the men’s event, Russia’s Vladislav Lekomtcev (24:54.0) and short and long distance freestyle cross country world champion Ihor Reptyukh of Ukraine (25:15.6) were the top two on the podium ahead of Russian Rushan Minnegulov (25:42.5) in third.
The IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup continues today (Thursday) with short and middle distance freestyle competitions.
Biathlon races begin from 11-12 January, before skiers head to Oberstdorf from 17-19 January for the next World Cup cross-country events.
Results from all events will be published on the IPC Nordic Skiing calendar and reults page of Paralympic.org.