US Paralympic champions Daniel Cnossen and Kendall Gretsch won the biathlon sprint sitting races of the Vuokatti World Cup with exceptional displays of shooting, both hitting all ten targets. It was Gretsch’s second biathlon gold of the competition while Cnossen has made the podium in every single race in Finland.
Andrea Eskau has done the same for Germany and she was second to Gretsch again on day five (18 December) with another US skier, Oksana Masters, taking bronze in her first biathlon race of the season.
Ukraine’s Taras Rad was second in the men's sitting and Germany’s Martin Fleig made the podium again this time winning bronze.
"This feels really, really great," said Cnossen. " This was a wonderful course today and we had no wind and I thought I would push the pace a little bit and see if I could recover approaching the downhill on to the range and that strategy paid off I think. It was a very, very close race between Taras Rad and me and it came down to a couple of seconds."
Klug cracks it
There was a shock in the women's vision impaired race when Germany's Clara Klug and guide Martin Hartl took victory ahead of race favourite Oksana Shyshkova and guide Vitaliy Kazakov. It was the shooting that made the difference with Klug shooting clean and Shyshkova missing two. Johanna Recktenwald grabbed another podium place for Germany in third with her guide Simon Schmidt.
"It was my first World Cup win with Martin as my guide so it's amazing! I had to cry a lot when I came in," said an emotional Klug.
"My shooting was a little slow but I wanted to do a safe shooting so that worked out well."
Yury Holub won his first race of the season taking the vision impaired title in a strong field. Together with his guide Dzmitry Budzilovich he shot clean and skied well to leave Ukrainian Iaroslav Reshetynskyi with guide Kostiantyn Yaremenko in second and France's Anthony Chalencon and guide Simon Valverde in third.
"Today was a very hard race for me. My skis were good and it was my first zero on the shooting. I am very happy for my first win on the World Cup," said Holub.
Nils-Erik Ulset of Norway put on another amazing display of biathlon by taking his second gold medal after also claiming the middle distance title on Saturday in the men’s standing. With clean shooting and great skiing he won by an impressive 22 seconds. Canada's Mark Arendz was in second again after missing a target and Ukraine's Grygorii Vovchynskyi was third.
"Today was the race I have been training for the whole of this season in this distance," explained Ulset, "so to have such a good first run in the sprint I am really happy with it."
"I was a little bit surprised (with my shooting) because coming into the range I was really, really nervous but I managed to focus on what I was supposed to do and that helped."
Ukraine’s Oleksandra Kononova dominated the women's standing and by the end of the race had gained a 32 second advantage over Norway's Vilde Nilson in second. The top two both shot the perfect ten but third placed Liudmyla Liashenko missed two shots on her way to the bronze medal.
The final race in Vuokatti take place on Wednesday 19 December and is a new race in biathlon called the class start.