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

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 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 racing at IPC Asian Cup in  Pyeongchang, South Korea.  (Photo: CCC)

Brittany Hudak of the Canadian Para-Nordic World Cup Team racing at IPC Asian Cup in Pyeongchang, South Korea. (Photo: CCC)

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.

Day 2

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).

Day 3

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).

Day 4

Mark Arendz on his way to winning the men’s 12.5 standing biathlon on Monday at the IPC Asian Cup in Pyeongchang, South Korea. (Photo: CCC)

Mark Arendz on his way to winning the men’s 12.5 standing biathlon on Monday at the IPC Asian Cup in Pyeongchang, South Korea. (Photo: CCC)

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.

“I felt fit and fast,” Soule wrote in an email about his week. “There are some minor technique adjustments that I am working on with my coach, but overall I feel great about the way I am racing.
“The organizers did a fantastic job putting courses together,” he added. ” These are not the courses we will be racing on in 2018 but it was still great experience for us. … I am excited for the 2018 games. Everything there seems to be coming together well and it looks like they will put together an incredible event.
“These races were really a practice and tune up event for me and a chance to see the stadiums and the range for 2018,” Soule concluded.

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).

The IPC nordic race schedule takes a two-and-a-half week break before commencing again on Feb. 21 in Finsterau, Germany.

Results:

Day 1: Women 1.1/1.4 k C Sprint | Men’s 1.1/1.4 k C Sprint

Day 2: Women 2.5/7.5 F Mid-Distance | Men 5/10 k F Mid-Distance

Day 3:Women 6 k Sprint | Men 7.5 k Sprint

Day 4: Women 10 k | Men 12.5 k

— Gabby Naranja 

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 www.paralympic.org 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…

Masters, Soule Roll to Second-Straight Wins; Hudak Victorious in Asahikawa World Cup

(IPC press release) US Nordic skiers had the better of the second day of the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup in Asahikawa, Japan, with Oksana Masters and Andrew Soule both securing their second successive wins in Sunday’s cross-country sprint races. Following her win in Saturday’s short event, Masters (3:12.60) again topped the podium in the women’s sitting sprint, an event she won bronze in at January’s World Championships in Cable, Wis. The 25-year-old finished ahead of Marjann Marthinsen (3:20.10), Norway’s Paralympic champion in this event, and Russia’s Natalia Kocherova (3:27.70). “What an amazing day for @USParaNordic, 2 golds and a silver at @IPCNordic #asahikawa2015 World Cup,” Masters tweeted soon after the race. In the men’s equivalent it was a US one two with Soule (2:49.00) edging out teammate Daniel Cnossen (2:52.80). Canada’s Chris Klebl (2:53.71) was third. Russia’s Vladislav Lekomtcev (2:46.05) showed exactly why he is the sprint world champion, leading home the men’s standing…