Benjamin Daviet of France stunned everybody – even himself – in Prince George as he won his fifth world title in five races at the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships.
“For sure I wasn’t expecting to win five gold medals. It was a nice day for me, and it’s been a nice week.”
The reigning Paralympic champion from last year in the biathlon long distance standing event, Mark Arendz of Canada, had other ideas. Arendz had a slight lead going into an exciting final stretch, delighting the fans in his home country.
Arendz was flawless after four rounds of shooting. He knew Daviet has been flying around the trails in Prince George and was just seconds behind him.
In the final 100 metres and after almost 15 kilometres, Arendz dug his right ski poll into the snow driving hard to get to the line ahead of Daviet.
But Daviet sprinted even faster and incredibly made up for a minute penalty he incurred for missing a shot.
Arendz helped the gold medallist remove his skis as he was sprawled out at the finish line. Then he gave him a big hug.
“We’re good friends. We’ve been battling each other all week and for the past couple of years. I did everything I could. He had just a slightly better race than I did,” Arendz said.
Arendz won the silver with Grygorii Vovchynskyi of Ukraine taking bronze.
Liudmyla Liashenko of Ukraine continued her domination of the biathlon competition winning her third title in three races at the Worlds.
She shot perfectly to take top spot once again and pumped her fist in the air when she crossed the line.
“Biathlon always has the unexpected. You never know what the results will be, so I am thrilled to come away with three gold medals.”
Her teammates Oleksandra Kononova and Yuliia Batenkova-Bauman completed the sweep for Ukraine.
It was bitterly cold when the long distance biathlon races got underway. Racers and spectators alike bundled up with blankets around the course. Even the mascot, Fraser the Moose, spent a good portion of the afternoon dancing to stay warm.
In the women’s sitting race, USA’s Kendall Gretsch was as hot as they come on the shooting range. She shot a perfect 20 for 20 during her four visits to the range.
That performance left her with the world title ahead of her teammate Oksana Masters whose unbeaten run at the championships finally came to an end.
“Everything came together for the shooting and the skiing so yeah I’m really excited,” Gretsch said.
“I’ve definitely made a lot of progress with my shooting this year. It’s really exciting for this race to be able to put it all together.”
Masters, with four world titles already, took the silver, with Andrea Eskau of Germany claiming the bronze.
Taras Rad of Ukraine was the last athlete to begin with the staggered start in the men’s sitting race.
But it was as if he did not want to stay out the course too long. He was the first to finish despite the late start and won gold by more than two minutes.
“It’s very cold today. My legs are completely freezing,” Rad said after the race.
Rad has now won the individual sprint, middle and long distance world titles in biathlon in Prince George.
“My secret is simple. It’s clean shooting and my skis were super fast today.”
Martin Fleig of Germany, the Paralympic champion in this event, raised his hands in the air to celebrate when he crossed the line for the silver. He just held off Vasyl Kravchuk of Ukraine who took the bronze.
WOMEN’S VISION IMPAIRED
Clara Klug and guide Martin Hartl of Germany continued her impressive run in Prince George.
Using the headphones that help the athletes aim for the target on the shooting range with a high pitched frequency, she was perfect.
She shot a clean round to win her third biathlon title in three races.
Klug competed with a bad head cold and said she was just happy when the race was over so she could go to bed and celebrate.
“It was really hard. Shooting was good. I concentrated a lot on that. On the course, with the cold, I felt I was going to die. I fought for every step I made out there. When I got to the finish area, I was just really glad.”
Oksana Shyshkova of Ukraine and guide Vitaliy Kazakov finished just behind Klug after she missed one crucial shot on the range.
Klug’s teammate, 17-year-old Johanna Recktenwald and guide Simon Schmidt won bronze.
MEN’S VISION IMPAIRED
Vitaliy Luk’yanenko of Ukraine was perfect on the shooting range to win the men’s vision impaired title.
Yury Holub and guide Dzmitry Budzilovich of Belarus took silver. Holub’s three misses on the range proved costly as he lost the 15km race by a mere 10 seconds.
Iaroslav Reshetynskyi and guide Kostiantyn Yaremenko of Ukraine were third.
Luk’yanenko, who skis with guide Borys Babar, won gold in the same event at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Paralympics.
Competition at the Worlds resumes on Saturday (23 February) with the team relay events.