By Gabby Naranja
Scientific research suggests the loss of one sense sharpens the others. In biathlon for visually impaired skiers — who must detect the targets using auditory tonal cues — this finding holds a high ring of truth. Though tracking down target centers using sound alone seems superhuman, Russian para-nordic skier Stanislav Chokhlaev proved when it comes to aiming using his ears, he’s one of the best.
With just one miss (0+1), Chokhlaev topped the men’s 7.5-kilometer visually impaired biathlon sprint last Monday, Feb. 22, kicking off the IPC (International Paralympic Committee) World Cup races in Finsterau, Germany, with a win.
Besting Russian teammate Nikolay Polukhin, Chokhlaev completed the men’s three-loop race in a time of 24:34.1 for the overall win. With two misses, Polukhin settled in second place overall. Third place went to Ukraine’s Iurii Utkin, who shot clean.
The Russian reign over the top spot continued, with Ivan Golubkov finishing first in the men’s 7.5 k sitting biathlon event. After skiing five penalty laps (3+2), Golubkov won in a time of 26:10.4.
Racing to a second-place finish on his home course was Germany’s Martin Fleig with two misses (1+1). Tying Fleig’s shooting score was American Andy Soule, who snagged the day’s final podium spot in third place overall.
“These races have been really good for me from a mental standpoint.” Soule wrote in an email. “I am definitely starting to see progress on some of the minor changes in my skiing form and shooting procedure that I have been working on for a long time.”
U.S. skier and Air Force Veteran, Sean Halsted raced to 10th place, with the same shooting score as race winner Golubkov.
Two Canadians, Derek Zaplotinsky and Collin Cameron also competed in the sitting biathlon race. Zaplotinsky placed 12th after nine penalties (4+5) and Cameron finished behind his teammate in 13th with five misses (1+4).
The final men’s event of the day, the 7.5 k biathlon standing sprint went to France’s Benjamin Daviet who cleaned his shooting and completed the course in a time of 23:47.4.
Finishing behind him in second and third, respectively, were Russia’s Alexsandr Pronkov and Vladislav Lekomtsev. Pronkov also shot clean, while Lekomtsev completed two penalty loops (1+1).
Canadian Mark Arendz competed in the biathlon standing sprint and raced to ninth place –just outside of earning World Cup points — with five misses (2+3).
In the women’s 6 k biathlon competitions, Ukraine took the top two spots in the visually impaired event, Oksana Shyshkova winning over teammate Olga Prylutska. After shooting 100 percent, Shyshkova completed the women’s three-loop race in a time of 24:14.1 for first place. Prylutska missed one shot (0+1) and raced to second overall. Shooting clean, third place went to Germany’s Vivian Hosch.
The lone North American racing in the visually impaired biathlon event, American Mia Zutter finished in 10th, after skiing five penalty laps (4+1).
In the women’s 6 k biathlon sitting sprint, Russian skier Irina Guliaeva took first in a time of 24:05.7 after two misses (1+1). American Oksana Masters raced to second place with two misses (0+2). Rounding out the top three was Russia’s Nadezhda Fedorova in third with three penalties (2+1).
The second American to compete in the event, Joy Rondeau raced to a seventh place after skiing nine penalty laps (4+5).
The final women’s event of Day 1, the 7.5 k standing biathlon sprint, saw a double podium finish for Ukraine, with Oleksandra Kononova in first and teammate Liudmyla Liashenko in second. After shooting clean, Kononova completed the women’s three-loop standing course in a time of 23:23.4. Liasheko missed three shots (1+2) to finish second, ahead of third-place finisher Anna Milenina of Russia, who missed five (2+3).
The second day of racing in Finsterau brought competitors out for a 4 x 2.5 k mixed gender and open relay.
Russia took the top two spots in the mixed relay, with their first four-person team of Fedorova, Milenina, Mikhalina Lysova, and Polukhin finishing first in 30:45.9. Russia’s second team, with Irina Guliaeva, Elena Remizova, Aleksandr Davidovich, and Stanislav Chokhlaev, finished 3.8 seconds later in second place.
Ukraine took third (+45.5), with their three-person team of Utkin, Kononova, and Liashenko.
Just out off the podium was Canadian in fourth (+1:42.2), with Chris Klebl, Emily Weekes, Brittany Hudak, and Arendz comprised Canada’s mixed team relay.
“We get few opportunities to race together as a team so it was great to race well,” Arendz said in a team press release. “Our team is improving regularly since last year’s World’s Championships so it is good to be heading in the right direction.”
In the open relay, Russia once again won, with the four-person team of Roman Petushkov, Lekomtsev, Ivan Kodlozerov, and Rushan Minnegulov taking gold in 28:18.8.
Ukraine finished second, 10.3 seconds back, with Iaroslav Reshetynskiy, Ihor Reptyukh, Maksym Yarovyi, and Anatolii Kovalevskyi.
Rounding out the podium was France’s three-person open relay team of Benjamin Daviet, Anthony Chalencon, and Thomas Clarion for third place (+20.5).
Canada’s four-person open relay team of Lindsey McDonald, Andy Lin, Yves Bourque, and Louis Fortin finished ninth overall (+12:01.8).
Every distance cross-country victory on Day 3 went to Russia — except for one. The sole non-Russian winner last Thursday, Masters of the U.S. won the women’s 12 k classic sitting distance event in a time of 37:48.9.
Masters bested her closest competitors by almost a minute, with Russian second-place finisher Nadezhda Fedorova finishing 47.8 seconds off Master’s time and Russian skier Irina Guliaeva, finishing 55.9 seconds back.
“Awesome race today by an incredible athlete and great teammate,” Soule posted with a photo of Masters on Twitter.
The second U.S. competitor for the day was Rondeau, who finished in seventh (+9:41.3) garnering World Cup points as well.
The rest of the Thursday’s winning spots all went to Russia. Setting the streak was Russia’s Milenina winning the women’s 15 k classic standing competition in a time of 47:23.6.
Finishing 28.3 seconds behind Milenina’s time in second, was Ukraine’s Kononova. The final podium spot in the 15 k classic went to Ekaterina Rumyantseva of Russia, who finished 3:38.6 behind her teammate.
Three Canadian women competed in Thursday’s 15 k classic standing event. Hudak finished in sixth (+4:09.4), Weekes was seventh (+6:26.7) and McDonald in 12th (+25:27.3).
In the women’s 15 k classic visually impaired cross-country competition, Russia racked up its second win, with Mikhalina Lysova finishing first in a time of 48:03.5. Just 10.5 seconds behind Lysova’s winning time was Russian teammate, Elena Remizova in second. Third place (+2:41.4) went to Ukraine’s Shyshkova, the winner of Monday’s biathlon sprint.
Russia tallied their third victory of the day with Golubkov’s win in the men’s 15 k classic sitting event. In his second individual first place finish of the week, Golubkov completed the 15 k in a time of 40:02.1.
Russian teammate Aleksandr Davidovich finished in second (+1:35.0) and Ukraine’s Maksym Yarovyi in third (1:51.7). Just outside of the podium, Soule placed fourth (+2:13.1) and U.S. teammate Halsted finished sixth (+4:01.1).
“The men’s sit field is very strong in IPC nordic, and I was up against some great skiers every day,” Soule wrote in an email. “I just have to approach each race one at a time, and focus on good procedure, technique, and recovery for the next day.”
The three Canadian men in the 15 k sit ski event, all earned World Cup points with Cameron finishing in ninth (+7:52.0), Zaplotinsky 10th (+8:33.7) and Bourque 11th (+9:53.3). Klebl did not start.
“It was a tough day with icy conditions and we may have missed the wax a bit, but the team put in a solid effort today,” Canadian Para-Nordic Ski Team Head Coach Robin McKeever said in a press release. “Our goal for this trip was to leverage this World Cup to provide some elite level competition for our development opportunities. That was a surprise and very strong effort by Collin today who is showing tremendous potential.”
The men’s 20 k classic standing race saw Russia’s Minnegulov top the podium, after he raced the 20 k course in a time of 47:55.5. Finishing 34.9 seconds behind Minnegulov in second place was Ukraine’s Reptyukh. Another Ukrainian secured a podium spot, with Grygorii Vovchynskyi finishing 39.4 seconds behind his teammate in third (+1:14.3).
Russia’s Chokhlaev added another individual victory to his list, after he won the third men’s event of the day: the 20 k classic visually impaired race.
Chokhlaev completed the course in a time of 50:15.6, besting his teammate Alexsander Artemov by 1:18.4. Finishing in third after Artemov was Ukrainian skier Dmytro Suiarko, 1:41 behind Chokhlaev’s time.
As the sun finally broke through the clouds on Day 4 of the IPC World Cup in Finsterau, so did a few familiar as well as new names to the top spots. Russia’s Petushkov raced to his first win of the week, Germany’s Fleig finishing behind him for his second runner-up finish, this time in the men’s 15 k sitting biathlon race.
“Due to the improved weather, the track was much better than during my race on Monday [the sprint],” Fleig said in an interview with the IPC. “It was really fun competing with sunshine rather than rain and snow. Although the sun was a little tricky during shooting.”
Fleig missed one shot (0+0+1+0) and finished in a time of 45:13.0, while the race winner Petushkov also skied one penalty (0+1+0+0), but finished 7.1 seconds faster in a time of 45:05.9. With two penalties (2+0+0+0), third place went to Russia’s Golubkov.
The top American male for the day, Soule finished in eighth overall after skiing five penalty laps (1+0+3+1). Finishing just behind Soule in ninth was Halsted, also with five misses (1+2+1+1). Canada’s Zaplotinsky finished in 11th with eight penalties (1+1+2+4).
“The organizers did a great job, and had an especially challenging time when it started raining on the day after opening.” Soule wrote in an email. “They had to move a race back one day, but put the courses back together really well. Overall it was a beautiful venue with great courses and I am looking forward to competing here again next year at world championships.”
In the men’s biathlon 15 k biathlon standing event, Ukraine’s Reptyukh shot 100 percent and won in a time of 37:35.3. In second place was Russia’s Lekomtsev with one miss (0+0+0+1). Tying Reptyukh’s shooting was Ukrainian teammate, Vovchnskyi in third.
Canada’s Arendz placed fifth, after shooting 19-for-20 (0+0+0+1).
The third men’s event on Friday included the men’s 15 k visually impaired biathlon race. After shooting clean, Russia’s Polukhin won in 39:41.4. Ukraine’s Kovalevskyi finished second with one penalty (0+0+0+1) and teammate Utkin finished in third with two penalties (1+0+1+0).
On the women’s side, Russia’s Guliaeva won the women’s 12.5 k sitting biathlon race, completing the course in 41:25.0 with 20-for-20 shooting.
Germany’s Anja Wicker raced to a second place finishing after also shooting 100 percent.
“The race was fun and the weather has improved a lot,” Wicker said in an IPC press release. “With nearly no wind the shooting went smooth.”
In third place was Russia’s Fedorova with four penalties (1+0+2+1).
Contributing to Ukraine’s week winnings was Liashenko in the 12.5 k standing biathlon race. Liashenko cleaned and won the event in a time of 37:45.4. Finishing behind her time in second was Russia’s Rumyantseva with one miss (1+0+0+0). The third podium spot went to Natalia Bratiuk of Russia after skiing one penalty loop (0+0+1+0).
Canada’s Weekes and Hudak finished in ninth and 11th, respectively. Weekes missed five shots (0+1+2+2) and Hudak had 10 penalties (1+1+3+5).
The third women’s event of the day, the women’s 12.5 k visually impaired biathlon race , went to Ukraine’s Shyshkova. After cleaning, Shyshkova completed the course in a time of 38:41.7. Second-place finisher Lysova of Russia missed two shots (0+1+1+0). After one penalty (0+0+0+1), Germany’s Hosch raced to a third pace overall.