Russia dominated cross-country skiing at Vancouver 2010, and heading into Sochi, sit-skier Roman Petushkov and visually impaired skier Mikhalina Lysova have the potential to be two of the biggest individual medal winners.
After winning 56 medals, including 22 golds, at the 2013 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships, the Sochi 2014 host nation is expected to shine the brightest in the biathlon cross-country skiing events, which are being contested across three sport classes.
In cross-country skiing, racers will compete in sprint, middle and long-distance events as well as team relays.
Russia dominated cross-country skiing at Vancouver 2010, and heading into Sochi, sit-skier Roman Petushkov and visually impaired skier Mikhalina Lysova have the potential to be two of the biggest individual medal winners. Double-world champion Lysova, guided by Alexey Ivanov, won a gold and two silvers in Vancouver, while Petushkov dominated all distances at last year’s World Championships. Lysova’s teammate, five-time world champion Elena Remizova, might just be her biggest competition.
The Ukrainians will try to challenge the Russians with a contingent led by two strong women – Iryna Bui, who is a 17-year-old world champion, and Iuliia Batenkova, who is a nine-time Paralympic medallist but still in search of her first gold.
Brian McKeever, who just missed out on qualifying for the Olympics with Canada, is a seven-time Paralympic champion in the visually impaired class and will be racing with his relatively new guide Eric Carleton for the first time at the Paralympics in cross-country skiing.
The biathlon results may look quite similar to those of cross-country skiing, as the Russians are expected to repeat – and potentially better – their Vancouver 2010 success in the sport, which will include sprint, middle and long-distance events.
In Sochi, they will be led by men’s visually impaired star Nikolay Polukhin, whose six Paralympic medals at Vancouver 2010 were the most of any athlete, as well as 19-year-old men’s sitting world champion Grigory Murygin. Polukhin, in particular, has dominated the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup circuit the last four years and is at the prime of his career.
Both Canada’s Mark Arendz and Japan’s Kozo Kubo are in search of their first Paralympic medals after steadily rising in the men’s standing and sitting ranks, respectively, the last four years.
Entering her fourth Paralympics, Ukraine’s Olena Iurkovska will look to dominate the women’s sitting events and add to her collection of three Paralympic biathlon golds.
At a glance
Venue: Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Centre
Medal events: 20 (cross-country skiing) and 18 (biathlon)
Sitting: Athletes with a leg impairment and decreased or no trunk function
Standing: Athletes with a leg, arm or combined leg and arm impairments
Visually impaired: Athletes who are blind or have a restricted visual field
Paralympic Games debut: Ornskoldsvik 1976 (cross-country skiing) and Lillehammer 1994 (biathlon)
Vancouver 2010 leaders
Russia: 7 golds, 9 silvers, 6 bronze, 22 total
Canada: 3 golds, 1 silver, 1 bronze, 5 total
Germany: 3 golds, 1 silver, 0 bronze, 4 total
Russia: 5 golds, 7 silvers, 4 bronze, 16 total
Ukraine: 3 golds, 3 silvers, 4 bronze, 10 total
Germany: 3 golds, 0 silvers, 2 bronze, 5 total
Did you know?
Norway lead the all-time Paralympic cross-country skiing medal count with 77 golds. Also, visually impaired biathletes are assisted by acoustic signals which, depending on signal intensity, indicate when they are on target.
Ones to Watch
Brian McKeever, Canada
Mikhalina Lysova, Russia
Iryna Bui, Ukraine
Iuliia Batenkova, Ukraine
Elena Remizova, Russia
Roman Petushkov, Russia
Mark Arendz, Canada
Olena Iurkovska, Ukraine
Kozo Kubo, Japan
Nikolay Polukhin, Russia
Ihor Reptyukh, Ukraine