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McKeever, Klebl Earn Double Gold for Canada at IPC World Cup Finals; Masters Tops 12 k for U.S.

Brian McKeever (l) and guide Erik Carleton after winning gold in the 20 k visually impaired freestyle on the first day of 2015 IPC World Cup Finals in Surnadal, Norway. (Photo: CCC)

Brian McKeever (l) and guide Erik Carleton after winning gold in the 20 k visually impaired freestyle on the first day of 2015 IPC World Cup Finals in Surnadal, Norway. (Photo: CCC)

(Combined IPC/CCC/U.S. Paralympics press releases)

The Canadian and Russian stole the spotlight on the first day of the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup Finals in Surnadal, Norway, with each nation winning two cross-country, long-distance freestyle races apiece on Tuesday.

In the men’s 20-kilometer visually impaired race, Paralympic and world champions Brian McKeever and guide Erik Carleton topped the podium in 48:38.5, nearly five minutes ahead of of Russia’s Stanislav Chokhlaev and guide Evgenii Fatkhullin in second (+4:42.8). Third place went to Ukraine’s Anatolii Kovalevskyi, guided by Oleksandr Mukshyn (+6:22).

In every IPC event they’ve competed in so far this season, McKeever and Carleton have not lost a race, according to a team press release.

Chris Klebl, a 2014 Paralympic gold medalist in the 10 k sit ski, secured Canada’s second win in the men’s 15 k sitting, a race that proved to be the day’s closest contest. The 43-year-old Klebl finished in 40:24.0, edging out Russian world champion Aleksandr Davidovich by just 1.3 seconds.

“I am definitely a fan of spring racing with the longer, warmer days,” Klebl said in a press release. “The racing this week is during the time frame of the Paralympic Games so it is also good to see that our training plan has me skiing fast now. I have one race left to see how the overall standings for the year shake out and I’m looking forward to it.”

Another Russian, Alexey Bychenok finished 57.8 seconds after Klebl in third. Just 7 seconds off the podium, Dan Cnossen of the U.S. placed fourth and his teammate Andy Soule was seventh, 2:20.6 behind Klebl.

Oksana Masters competes in the 12-kilometer women's sit-ski race at the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup Final in Surnadal, Norway. Masters captured gold in the event, winning the first medal of the competition for the U.S. team. (Photo: John Farra/U.S. Paralympics)

Oksana Masters competes in the 12-kilometer women’s sitting race at the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup Finals in Surnadal, Norway. Masters captured gold in the event, winning the first medal of the competition for the U.S. team. (Photo: John Farra/U.S. Paralympics)

Leading the overall IPC World Cup standings in the women’s sit ski, American Oksana Masters maintained her recent run of good form in Tuesday’s 12 k sitting, winning in 36:44.90 over Norway’s home favourite Mariann Marthinsen, who was second (+52.8), and Russia’s Natalia Kocherova, who was 2:29.7 back in third.

“My goal in today’s race was to focus on my pacing and technique,” Masters said in a U.S. Paralympics press release. “This season, the 12-kilometer races have been a struggle with pacing and keeping technique once I get tired. Today was a team effort success. My skis were flying thanks to [ski technician] Dave [Mark] and my coaches were alongside the course reminding me about pacing and technique. It’s always a team effort and today was a great way to end the last long distance cross-country race of the season.”

Russia’s two wins on Tuesday came through world champions Iuliia Budaleeva and Rushan Minnegulov.

Budaleeva and guide Tatiana Maltseva were victorious in the women’s 15 k visually impaired race in 43:14.9 and shared the podium with Ukraine’s Oksana Shyshkova and guide Lada Nesterenko in second (43:57.1) and fellow Russians Elena Remizova and guide Maksim Pirogov in third (44:27.5).

Minnegulov won the men’s 20 k standing in 49:28.0, beating Ukraine’s Ihor Reptyukh in second (50.41.5) and Norway’s Hakon Olsrud, who was third (52:07.8).

The defending world champion in the women’s 15 k standing, Ukraine’s Oleksandra Kononova racked up another win at World Cup Finals in the event in 44:04.7. Canada’s Brittany Hudak took silver, 31.1 seconds back, and Kononova’s teammate Liudmyla Liashenko finished 45.1 seconds back in third.

“It is a mixture of shock and happiness today,” Hudak said in the release. “It was great to beat the Ukraine girl who was third for the first time so I was thrilled with that. I had been feeling tired heading into the race so I was focused on my technique and skiing as efficiently as possible. Once I started the race, it became clear that my skis were really fast so I pushed hard and enjoyed the experience.”

Competition continues through Sunday with the cross-country middle distance classic as well as the short, pursuit and long-distance biathlon races.

Results: Men | Women

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