— 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.
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 event and bronze medalist in the 5 k classic sitting event at the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi — won the women’s 1.1 k classic sitting sprint final on Thursday in a time of 2:59.37.
Finishing in second after Masters was Russia’s Svetlana Konovalova ahead of her teammate Irina Guliaeva, who crossed in third.
In the women’s 1.4 k classic standing sprint, Russia’s Ekaterina Rumyantseva took the win, completing the course in a time of 4:45.95.
Brittany Hudak of the Canadian Para-Nordic World Cup Team finished second in a time of 4:52.99.
“I am really happy with my overall performance [Thursday],” Hudak said in team press release. “I really tried to focus on skiing with efficient technique and with good skis on my feet. I’m super pleased that I felt strong in the final,” she added.
In third was Japanese skier, Yurika Abe completing the 1.4 k course in 5:09.7.
The first day of racing for the men saw two Russians in the top two for the men’s 1.1 k classic sit sprint podium.
Aleksandr Davidovich place first in a time of 2:45.29. His teammate Roman Petuschkov finished second overall.
American Andy Soule also ended the day on the podium, racing to a third place.
In the men’s 1.4 k classic standing sprint, Russia once again took the top spot, with Vladislav Lekomtsev winning the event in a time of 3:49.26.
Canadian biathlon specialist Mark Arendz raced to a second place overall in the cross-country event, clocking in at 3:56.17.
“It was a great start to the year. For a first race, there were a few little things that I still need to work on, but overall I’m happy with the performance,” said Arendz in a press release.
“I worked hard on my classic skiing in training so it is rewarding to see it come together. To be near the front of a very competitive field is very satisfying,” he added.
Third in the men’s 1.4 k classic standing sprint was Japanese ski racer Yoshihiro Nitta, finishing in a time of 4:00.37.
Japan’s Kazuto Takamura placed first in the third men’s event on Thursday, the 1.4 k classic visually impaired sprint. Takamura completed the course in a time of 5:00.10. In second was South Korea’s Bogue Choi, who finished in 5:01.39.
Friday, Jan. 29, marked the second day of racing for athletes at the Pyeongchang Asian Cup, with the middle-distance freestyle cross-country events.
Masters once again outmatched her competition peers, winning the women’s 2.5 k freestyle sit-ski in a time of 8:29.1, claiming her second victory in a row in Pyeongchang.
The previous day’s Russian podium finishers flip-flopped places, with Guliaeva moving up to second place (8:58.2) and her teammate Konovalova finishing in third (9:27.0).
In the women’s 7.5 k freestyle standing event, Rumyantseva stood atop the podium once more, after racing to first place in a time of 18:28.4.
Another Russian, Natalia Bratiuk finished second, completing the 7.5 k course in 19:49.9.
Canadian newcomer and a former wrestler, Emily Weekes made reached the podium in third (19:59.8).
“My goal for wrestling was to compete at the Olympics in 2018. And so now to have a second chance, even though it’s not able-bodied and it’s not wrestling,” Weekes said in a press release, “It’s a lot of catch up, but it’s really exciting.”
Friday for the men proved Russia’s Davidovich again unbeatable, as he raced to his second victory, this time in the men’s 5 k freestyle sit event, in a time of 14:51.5.
World Cup podium veteran Chris Klebl of Canada, raced to second place behind Davidovich (15:17.9).
Soule raced to another third-place finish, crossing the line in 15:19.2.
The men’s 10 k freestyle standing event was dominated by the Russians, with all three podium spots taken by Russia.
Rushan Minnegulov claimed first in a time of 20:11.7. His teammates Lekomtsev (20:17.8) and Aleksandr Pronkov (20:18.4) crossed in second and third respectively.
The men’s 10 k freestyle visually impaired event saw Japan’s Takamura again in first (26:48.4) and South Korean Choi in second (27:22.9).
After a day of rest, racing picked up again on Sunday with biathlon sprints.
IPC Biathlon and Cross-Country Skiing World Championships silver medalist, Konovalova won the women’s 6 k sitting biathlon sprint in a time of 20:47.4, with one miss (0+1).
In second was her Russian teammate Guliaeva, who completed the course in 21:20.2 with three misses (1+2). Masters crossed in third (23:03.1) also with three misses (0+3).
Russia’s Rumyanseva continued her winning streak, claiming yet another victory in the women’s 6 k standing biathlon sprint in a time of 19:21.6 and shot clean (0+0).
Russian teammate Bratiuk matched her result from Friday, finishing Sunday’s 6 k biathlon standing sprint event in second (21:36.5) with one miss (1+0).
Japan’s Abe also finished on the podium in third (22:57.5) with two misses (2+0).
With perfect shooting the most decorated single athlete at the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Winter Games, Russia’s Petushkov top the charts in the men’s 7.5 k sitting biathlon sprint on Sunday, finishing in a time of 23:08.3.
In his third podium of the week, Soule placed second (24:25.6) with four misses (2+2).
Rounding out the top three was Russian Gregory Murygin (24:41.2) with three misses (1+2).
The men’s 7.5 k standing biathlon sprint on Sunday witnessed Pronkov in first in a time of 18:32.4 with one miss (1+0).
Canada’s Arendz came in second (18:52.8) also with one miss (1+0). Third place finisher, Ivan Kodolozerov shot clean and completed the course in 19:03.2.
South Korea’s Choi was the lone competitor in the men’s 7.5 k visually impaired biathlon sprint and completed the course in 27:26.6 with four misses (3+1).
The final day of racing in Pyeongchang got underway on Monday with biathlon distance events.
Results in the women’s 10 k biathlon sitting event witnessed a repeat podium order from Sunday. Russia’s Konovalova shot 100 percent and once again came away victorious in a course time of 34:01.5.
With just one penalty, teammate Guliaeva came in second (34:29.4) and Masters, who missed five (3+2+0+0), finished in third (39:50.9).
Russia’s Rumyantseva remained undefeated, coming away triumphant in the women’s 10 k standing biathlon event in a winning time of 34:15.3 with one penalty (0+0+1+0).
Teammate Bratiuk maintained her previous place, finishing in second (37:37.6) with one miss in her final round of shooting (0+0+0+1).
Japan’s Momoko Dekijima reached the podium in third (38:45.7) with two misses (1+0+1+0).
In the final day of racing for the men, Russia’s Murygin moved up, winning the men’s 12.5 k sitting biathlon event on Monday in a time of 41:40.4 with two misses (1+0+0+1).
Despite seven penalties (2+2+1+2), Soule ended the day in second (42:25.2) for his fourth-consecutive podium in as many races in South Korea.
On his home turf, South Korean skier Hyun Eui Sin placed third (43:24.7), with six misses (1+2+1+2).
With just one miss in his final round of shooting (0+0+0+1), Arendz broke the Russian regime, and took first place in the men’s 12.5 standing biathlon event in a time of 32:56.3.
“I just had to make it difficult on myself,” he said afterward.
“Skied a fantastic race to take the victory in PyeongChang despite missing a shot in the final bout of shooting,” he tweeted.
Two Russian skiers rounded out the podium with Kodlozerov in second (33:03.7) after shooting clean and Lekomtsev in third (33:30.4) after missing one shot in each round (1+1+1+1).
Choi was once again the lone competitor in the men’s 12.5 k visually impaired biathlon event, racing the course in time of 46:47.7 with six penalties (3+2+0+1).
— Gabby Naranja