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Masters Breaks Up Russian XC Sweep; Soule on the Podium at Finsterau World Cup

Oksana Masters racing to a cross-country distance victory at the IPC World Cup at Finsterau, Germany. (Photo: US Paralympics Nordic/Facebook)

Oksana Masters racing to a cross-country distance victory on Day 3 of the IPC World Cup in Finsterau, Germany. (Photo: US Paralympics Nordic Program/Facebook)

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.

Andy Soule after placing third on the first day of the IPC World Cup in Finsterau, Germany, with teammate Sean Halsted, who placed 10th, giving him a thumbs up as well. (Photo: US Paralympics Nordic/Facebook)

Andy Soule after placing third on the first day of the IPC World Cup in Finsterau, Germany, with U.S. teammate Sean Halsted, who placed 10th, giving him a thumbs up as well. (Photo: US Paralympics Nordic/Facebook)

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).

Day 1 Results: Men | Women

Day 2

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).

Day 2 results: Mixed Relay | Open Relay

Day 3

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.

Day 3 results: Women | Men 

Day 4 

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.

Day 4 results: Men | Women

Masters with Back-to-Back Wins; Arendz Tops Biathlon Race; 4 Podiums for Soule in Pyeongchang

Come on @ASouleUSA & @OksanaMasters what day is it? That’s right. .. it’s SPRINT DAY! — John Farra (@JohnFarra) January 28, 2016 Note: This post has been updated to include comments from Andy Soule. Many Olympic hopefuls and athletes know the importance of practice in relation to performance. After Pyeongchang, South Korea, was named the host site for the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, athletes from the U.S., Canada, China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea got plenty of competition practice on the course trails during the 2016 International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Nordic Skiing Asian Cup, which took place this year Jan. 28 until Feb. 1. Day 1 The IPC Asian Cup began last Thursday, Jan. 28, with a cross-country classic sprint. A member of the U.S. Paralympic Nordic Skiing team, Oksana Masters — a bronze medalist in rowing at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London, silver medalist in the women’s 12-kilometer freestyle classic sitting…

Masters Honored with Best of March Team USA Award

  (Press release) COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (April 10, 2014) – Notable performances during the month of March earned Paralympic Nordic skier Oksana Masters (Louisville, Kentucky), shooter Vincent Hancock (Eatonton, Georgia) and the ice dancing pair of Madison Chock (Novi, Michigan) and Evan Bates (Ann Arbor, Michigan) Best of March honors for the Team USA Awards presented by Dow, the United States Olympic Committee announced on Friday. Masters claimed her final two gold medals of the 2014-15 season at the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup final, held March 16-22 in Surnadal, Norway. She finished 52.8 seconds ahead of the field to win the 12-kilometer sitting cross-country race. Four days later, she clinched the overall women’s Nordic world cup title with a win in the middle distance event. Read more on Masters’ World Cup win here. Hancock made history by shooting a perfect world-record qualifying score of 125 to win the gold…

Cnossen Captures Silver in World Cup Finals Pursuit; Arendz Repeats with Bronze

  (Combined IPC/CCC/U.S. Paralympics press releases) U.S. Paralympian and Navy SEAL Lt. Cmdr. Dan Cnossen cleaned three-straight stages then missed two shots to come away with silver on Day 3 of the 2015 IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup Finals on Friday in Surnadal, Norway. Cnossen finished second in men’s biathlon 12.5-kilometer sitting pursuit to end up on the podium for the first time at World Cup Finals. The starting positions in biathlon pursuit are based on the participants’ finishes in the biathlon sprint, in which Cnossen finished sixth. He ended up 54.4 seconds behind Russia’s Alexey Bychenok, who won in 41:43.8. “That was a really fun race,” Cnossen told U.S. Paralympics after the pursuit. “I was chasing people right out of the gate, and I came into the range with three people and every time that happened it helped me to keep my mind in the game. It was a great day!” Also…

Arendz, Hudak Race to Bronze in Biathlon Sprints at IPC World Cup Finals

  (Combined IPC/CCC press releases) Canadian Mark Arendz fought his way into podium contention after a late penalty in the men’s 7.5-kilometer standing sprint on Wednesday, the first day of biathlon competition at IPC World Cup Finals in Surnadal, Norway. The two-time Paralympian put down a fast last lap to finish 46 seconds behind defending world champion Vladislav Lekomtcev of Russia, who won in 17:20.1 with perfect shooting. Norway’s Nils-Erik Ulset also shot clean to finish 44.9 seconds back in second. “It was a great skiing race for me,” Arendz, 25, said in a Canadian Para-Nordic Ski Team press release. “I was moving well throughout the race, but made a bit of work for myself with that miss on the range. I felt confident on the range, but a miss is costly. There was some really tight results in my field and I have to be pleased I skied somewhat back after that first miss is my…

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

(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…

Masters Nominated for IPC Athlete of the Month

(Press release) Six para-athletes have been shortlisted for the Allianz Athlete of the Month poll for February 2015 and the public are now invited to vote for their winner via The nominations for February 2015 are: Chris Vos, the Netherlands, Snowboard The 17-year-old did not just celebrate his birthday at the World Championships in La Molina, Spain, he also won two world titles.  He topped the podium in the SB-LL1 class in the snowboard cross head-to-head and banked slalom. Aled Davies, Great Britain, Athletics At the IPC Athletics Grand Prix in Dubai, UAE, Davies set two new world records in 24 hours.  He first broke his own discus F42 record by 17cm with a throw of 48.87m. In the shot put F42 he threw 15.92m to beat his previous record by 1.21m. Alexey Bugaev, Russia, Alpine skiing The 17-year-old heads into March’s World Championships in the form of his life. …

Cnossen, Masters Claim Gold on Final Day in Asahikawa; Hudak 2nd in Skate Race

(IPC press release) The IPC Nordic Skiing cross-country World Cup concluded on Thursday with a double win for the USA and Russia in middle-distance freestyle races in Asahikawa, Japan. After missing out on a medal at the 2015 World Championships just weeks ago, U.S. sit-skier Dan Cnossen was triumphant after chasing the top spot on the podium all week behind teammate Andy Soule. Cnossen (30:17.8) put in a strong performance to lead Canadian Chris Klebl (30:31.2) in second and Russia’s Alexey Bychenok (30:38.7) in third. In the women’s event the USA’s Oksana Masters (16:36.4) once again made good on her aspirations to improve in her second competitive season, winning ahead of Norway’s Mariann Marthinsen (16:51.9). Russian Natalia Kocherova (17:37.6) was third, as the podium trio head into the World Cup Finals in Surnadal, Norway, as the overall top three. Rushan Minnegulov (24:08.2) topped the men’s standing race for Russia, climbing from an early third. France’s…

Soule Racks Up Fourth-Straight Gold in Asahikawa; Masters Tallies Third Win

(IPC press release) Russian skiers sealed a double win at the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup in Asahikawa, Japan, on Wednesday, bringing their day’s podium total to five in the 1-kilometer cross-country sprints. Vladislav Lekomtcev headed the field in the men’s freestyle standing sprint, securing his third win of the competition and pushing himself further out of reach in the overall World Cup rankings. France’s Benjamin Daviet was second, splitting Lekomtcev and his teammate Ivan Kodlozerov in third. Canadian Mark Arendz placed fourth. The second win for Russia came in the women’s equivalent, the women’s freestyle standing sprint, courtesy of Ekaterina Rumyantseva who once again led Japan’s Yurika Abe and Canadian Brittany Hudak, respectively. There was also double joy for the USA, as Oksana Masters took her third win and Andy Soule his fourth in the women’s and men’s sitting sprints, respectively. The win continues Soule’s unbeaten record for the competition. “I…

Soule Makes It 3-for-3; Hudak and McKeever Golden Again in Asahikawa

(IPC press release) The USA’s Andy Soule continued his fantastic run of form at the 2015 IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup on Tuesday, with his third win in as many races in Asahikawa, Japan, in the cross-country 15-kilometer classic sitting. US Army veteran and recent World Championships bronze medallist Soule headed a strong field of finishers, winning in 45:10.2, 6.1 seconds ahead of Canada’s Chris Klebl in second and his teammate Dan Cnossen was 30.6 seconds back in third. In sunny conditions just above freezing, Norway’s Mariann Marthinsen reclaimed the top of the podium, collecting her first win of the competition in the women’s 12 k sitting in 40:39.2. Marthinsen beat Soule’s compatriot Oksana Masters by 14.3 seconds, who has so far had the winning edge in Asahikawa and ended up second on Tuesday. Russian Natalia Kocherova rounded out the top three, 2:10.6 back. Russian Vladislav Lekomtcev picked up his second win in the men’s 20 k standing in 59:31.2, leading…