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Masters and McKeever Emerge Victorious in Opening IPC Cross-Country Races in Vuokatti

The opening races for the 2016/2017  International Paralympic Cup season took place this past Friday, Dec. 9, in Vuokatti, Finland with a few North American names topping the podium in their respective events. For the U.S. women, Oksana Masters tallied her first win of the season in the sit sprint event, while Canada’s Brian McKeever won the men’s visually impaired classic sprint competition. Full race recap and results detailed below.

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After she ended last season undefeated in every International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cup cross-country event, U.S. paralympic athlete Oksana Masters kept her winning streak going when she took gold in the women’s cross-country sit sprint during the opening races of the IPC 2016/2017 season this Friday, Dec. 9.

With the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro just a few months behind her–she competed in the Rio Paralympic games as a handcyclist-– Master saw her victory on Day 1 of racing in Vuokatti, Finland as somewhat unexpected.

I just came off Rio and I only had a few weeks to train from cycling to skiing and especially on snow–we were only on snow for three weeks, so I was so nervous,” Masters said during a television interview. “I had no expectations.”

Masters crossed first in a time of 2:21.26 seconds, besting Norway’s Birgit Skarstein, who placed second in a time of 2:31.05 seconds and Finnish skier Sini Pyy who crossed in third in a time of 2:35.85 seconds.  

“I love the challenge. I’m so excited to see so many different classes of women’s sit skiers out here which makes it so fun,” Masters said, according to an IPC press release. “The final was really fun.”

In the men’s sit sprint event, it was Ukrainian ski racer Maksym Yarovyi who took the overall win, crossing in a time of 1:56.73 seconds. Second place went to Norwegian Trygve Steinar Larsen crossing in a time of 2:04.81, while third place went to Dzmitry Loban of Belarus in a time of 2:10.76.

American paralympic athlete Aaron Pike led Team USA in the men’s sit sprint event, placing fifth overall in a time of 2:07.45. U.S. paralympic teammates Daniel Cnossen and Andrew Soule made the semifinals, placing 9th and 11th respectively.

The lone Canadian in the men’s sit sprint event, Collin Cameron, also made the final and crossed in a time of 2:09.12 for sixth overall.

Earning her first ever World Cup win in the women’s standing classic sprint event, was Japan’s Yurika Abe, who took the victory in a time of 3:53.74.

“I am really surprised,” Abe said according to a IPC press release. “ It was a good time for me!”

Rounding out the women’s standing classic sprint podium was Ukrainian skier Iuliia Barenkova, who cross in second in a time of 3:59.23 seconds and Canada’s Emily Young finishing in a time of 4:13.89 seconds for third.

“What a day and great way to start the World Cup season,” Young said according to a Cross Country Canada press release. “My goal was to ski the fastest and smartest race I could, and be happy with any result.”

The men’s standing classic sprint went to Grygorii Vovchynskyi of Ukraine, who crossed first in a time of 3:04.87. Finnish skier Ilkka Tuomisto took second place in a time of 3:01.64 seconds, while Canada’s Mark Arendz secured the final podium spot in third, crossing in a time of 3:11.51 seconds.

“It was a tight finish, but I stayed calm and knew my skis would keep me in the fight,” Arendz said, according to a Cross Country Canada press release. “I came back onto the leaders. Lunging for the line I passed fourth place but couldn’t quite reach second. It was a fantastic way to start the new season, and confirms the work I’ve done over the summer is working. The fitness is there and I’m excited for the rest of the week.”

Also competing in the men’s standing classic sprint was the U.S.’s Ruslan Reiter, who finished in 21st overall.

In the women’s classic visually impaired sprint, another Ukrainian topped the podium, with Oksana Shyshkova finishing first in a time of 3:55.52 seconds. Austria’s Carina Edlinger crossed in second in a time of 3:56.81, while Germany’s Clara Klug took third in a time of 4:16.13.

Canada took home a gold in the men’s visually impaired classic sprint competition, with Brian McKeever emerging the overall winner at the end of Day 1. McKeever crossed in a time of 3:02.76, besting Sweden’s Zebastian Modin, who finished second in a time of 3:03.73 and Ukraine’s Iurii Utkin, who crossed third in a time of 3:17.70.

“Modin especially showed he’s the guy who has been coming up for years, and he gets better every year, so it’s still good to race against him and feel like I’m competitive in the sprints,” McKeever said according to an IPC press release. “The long distances are usually better. I’m happy, it was a good day. The skis were great, the technicians did a good job and everyone is in good spirits.”

Results: Men | Women

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