Russian athletes showed they will be the ones to beat at next year’s Paralympic Winter Games winning half of the medals on the first day of competition at the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup Finals in Sochi, Russia.
Taking place at “Laura”, the Cross-country and Biathlon Centre which is located on the crest of the Psekhako Ridge to the northwest of the Rosa Khutor Alpine Resort, Russian athletes won nine out of the 18 medals available in Sunday’s six cross-country sprint events.
Under heavy fog, which made visibility difficult for athletes and spectators, the first event of the day was the men’s sit-ski race over 0.8km. Despite four of the six finalists representing Russia, the home athletes did not have it their own way. In a thrilling sprint, the race was won by Ukraine’s 23 year old Maksym Yarovyi (1:48.9), silver went to Russia’s world bronze medallist Gregory Murygin (2:19.5), whilst bronze was won by Norway’s Trygve Steinar Larsen (2:23.9).
Germany’s Andrea Eskau (2:44.7), a winner of the middle and long distance cross-country world titles at the recent World Championships in Solleftea was the winner of the women’s sit-ski sprint. She finished ahead of Norway’s world sprint bronze medallist Mariann Marthinsen (2:53.4) in silver and Italy’s Paralympic cross-country sprint champion from 2010, Francesca Porcellato (2:45.3) in bronze.
Brian McKeever of Canada showed he will be reluctant to give up the Paralympic cross-country sprint title he won in Vancouver in 2010, by winning the men’s visually impaired class over 1.5km together with his guide Erik Carleton (3:55.3). Russia took the other medals thanks to Stanislav Chokhlaev and guide Maxim Pirogov (4:01.5) who finished second ahead of Aleksei Toropov and guide Evgenii Fatkhullin (4:05.6) in third.
After not winning gold in the first three races, Russian athletes more than made up for it in the women’s visually impaired class, taking home all three medals.
It was fitting that the winner of Russia’s first gold in the Sochi test event was 20 year old Mikhalina Lysova who won five world titles earlier this month. She and her guide Alexey Ivanov finished in 4:16.8, ahead of teammate Elena Remizova and her guide Natalia Yakimova (4:19.8) in silver. Bronze went to Iuliia Budaleeva and guide Tatyana Maltseva (4:26.6) ensuring a repeat of the podium places from Solleftea.
Russia struck gold and silver again in the very next race, this time in the men’s standing. Gold went to Kirill Mikhaylov (3:56.20) whilst silver went to world bronze medallist Rushan Minnegulov (3:57.6). Bronze was won by Norway’s 22 year old Vegard Dahle (3:58.0), a two time world silver medallist in the event.
The final event of the day was the women’s standing and saw Russia finish with a hat-trick of gold medals. Top of the podium was Anna Milenina (4:37.3) who finished ahead of the Ukrainian Iuliia Batenkova (4:51.2) and Japan’s Shoko Ota (4:54.9) in silver and bronze respectively.
Live coverage of each medal event can be found at www.ParalympicSport.TV Monday’s (18 March) event will be cross-country long distance, the event that should have taken place on Saturday but was cancelled due to strong winds. Competition and live coverage will start at 08:00 CET
Regular updates can also be found at www.twitter.com/IPCNordic and www.facebook.com/IPCNordicSkiing.
Daily reports of all the action will also be published at www.ipc-nordicskiing.org
The Sochi 2014 Paralympic Games will take place between 7-16 March and are set to feature 700 athletes from 45 countries. They will compete in five sports – alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, ice sledge hockey and wheelchair curling. Para- snowboard will make its Games debut as part of the alpine skiing programme.