Taiki Kawayoke delighted the home crowd with a victory on the first day of cross-country events at the World Para Nordic Skiing World Cup in Sapporo, Japan, on Saturday.
The 18-year-old won the men’s middle distance standing ahead of some of the world’s top names such as Polish Witold Skupien and France’s three-time Paralympic champion Benjamin Daviet, who only two days ago secured the biathlon World Cup title.
It was also the first World Cup victory for 18-year-old Kawayoke, who won Japan’s only gold medal at last month’s World Championships in Prince George, Canada.
Ukrainian Grygorii Vovchynskyi ended fourth in the race but still leads the overall rankings with 680 points. Skupien (653) and Daviet (505) follow him, both still in with a chance of taking the World Cup title by winning the final race on Sunday.
Nilsen continues dream season
Still fresh from securing four world titles in Prince George, 18-year-old Vilde Nilsen extended her winning-streak by claiming the women’s standing race. Canadian Natalie Wilkie and Ukraine’s Yuliia Batenkova-Bauman completed the top-three.
The Norwegian therefore secured the World Cup title with one race to go as she holds an unassailable 980 points. Ukrainian Paralympic champions Liudmyla Liashenko (635) and Oleksandra Kononova (576) follow her from afar.
Edlinger achieves three-peat
Austrian four-time world champion Carina Edlinger showed impeccable form once more as she stormed to gold in the women’s vision impaired alongside guide Florian Rupert Seiwald to claim her third consecutive World Cup title with one race to go.
German three-time biathlon world champion Clara Klug and guide Martin Hartl and Ukraine’s two-time Paralympic gold medallist Oksana Shyshkova, guided by Vitaliy Kazakov, completed the podium.
On his first race since winning another world title on home soil in Prince George, Brian McKeever and guide Graham Nishikawa took gold in the men’s vision impaired in Sapporo.
Two Ukrainians completed the top-three as Dmytro Suiarko, guided by Vasyl Potapenko, and Iaroslav Reshetynskyi, guided by Kostiantyn Yaremenko came in second and third respectively.
Masters keeps title chances alive
Five-time Prince George 2019 world champion Oksana Masters was the overwhelming winner in the women’s sitting ahead of compatriot Kendall Gretsch and Norway’s Birgit Skarstein and still dreams of regaining the World Cup title she won in 2014-15, 2015-16 and 2016-17.
She currently has 700 points and stands in second in the overall rankings, just 10 points behind Skarstein. Gretsch (660) also hopes to cause an upset in the last cross-country event in Sapporo and jump into first position.
Two days after winning the biathlon World Cup title, Ukraine’s Paralympic champion Taras Rad added another gold to his tally as he ended first in the men’s cross-country middle distance sitting in Sapporo.
He was followed by USA’s Daniel Cnossen, who nevertheless will win the overall title, and Rad’s compatriot Vasyl Kravchuk.
Cross-country events in Sapporo conclude on 17 March, with live results on World Para Nordic Skiing's website.