Prince George 2019: Victory for Vilde

Norway’s Vilde Nilsen has continued her meteoric rise to the top, winning her first world title on day two (18 February) of the World Para Nordic Skiing Championships in Prince George, Canada.

The 18-year-old held off a strong Ukrainian challenge on a day of middle distance cross-country races to take gold in the women’s standing.

As the race neared its end, it looked like the podium would be a Ukrainian clean sweep.

But a stunning performance from Nilsen put her in contention, leaving her waiting nervously at the finish line for the official times to be posted. After a delay, when the results finally showed up on the big screen, she raised her hand in the air to celebrate.

“Everyone was screaming, I hugged my coach,” she said.

“It sounds amazing [to be world champion]. I can’t believe it. It’s a dream come true.”

It is Nilsen’s second major medal following her surprise silver on her Paralympic debut at PyeongChang 2018.

Liudmyla Liashenko of Ukraine finished second followed by her teammate Oleksandra Kononova. For both, it’s their second medals of the championships.

Men’s standing

The flying Frenchman Benjamin Daviet is just one of a number of star athletes finding the Worlds course very much to their liking.

On a beautiful but biting cold day in Prince George with spectators all bundled up and sporting sunglasses, Paralympic champion Daviet sprinted to the line to win his second gold in two days.

While many of his rivals were sprawled out in exhaustion at the finish line, Daviet looked like he could have kept going and finished more than a minute ahead of his nearest challenger.

“Physically I feel in good shape. I am a little bit surprised by myself,” he said, adding, “I love this place and the tracks.”

Mark Arendz of Canada made the home fans happy once again winning silver, his second medal of the championships to go along with his bronze from Saturday. Grygorii Vovchynskyi of Ukraine won bronze.

“I felt a little off yesterday but that allowed my body to come around and be ready today. Even the first lap or two today was a little off until half way - I’m like, ‘I’m in this. We’re right there’. So it was about pushing those last two laps,” Arendz said.

Women’s sitting

In the women’s sitting event, Oksana Masters of the USA was on cloud nine after also making it two golds in two days by adding the cross-country title to Saturday’s biathlon crown.

It is an impressive start to the Worlds for Masters who is coming back from two recent elbow surgeries, an injury she suffered just before last year’s Paralympics in PyeongChang.

“This is not what I expected at the beginning of the season,” Masters said.

“It just feels absolutely amazing. Cross-country is where I was putting all my eggs in the basket. Yesterday [biathlon] was a complete surprise.”

Her teammate Kendall Gretsch won the silver for her second medal of the championship.

Birgit Skarstein of Norway took the bronze and sported a huge smile after the race thrilled with her performance.

Men’s sitting

The race for gold could not have been much closer with just half a second separating the top three finishers.

Martin Fleig of Germany won gold just ahead of Paralympic champion Daniel Cnossen of the USA and Ukraine’s Taras Rad, who won bronze to go with his gold from Saturday.

Fleig said he had a poor showing in the biathlon going through his mind when he started the race.

“I had so much anger in my stomach from yesterday. I had four misses at the shooting range. I know I can do better. So I took the chance,” he said.

Men’s vision impaired

In the men’s vision impaired race, Yury Holub and guide Dzmitry Budzilovich continued to impress winning their second world title in two races.

“I’m very exhausted, very tired after this race. It was a really tough race for sure,” Holub said.

“I trained so hard to be on top,” he added.

Dmytro Suiarko of Ukraine took the silver with guide Vasyl Potapenko.

Anthony Chalencon of France and guide Simon Valverde won bronze and said afterwards he was excited to see the French team led by Benjamin Daviet performing so well at the championships.

Women’s vision impaired

Ukraine’s Oksana Shyshkova and guide Vitaliy Kazakov edged out Carina Edlinger of Austria with guide Florian Rupert Seiwald.

It was another close finish and when it ended an exhausted Edlinger collapsed at the line. She received medical treatment and did not attend the medal ceremony after the race.

Shyshkova now has a gold and a silver at the Worlds.

Clara Klug of Germany finished third to win her second medal of the weekend with guide Martin Hartl.

Prince George 2019 continues on Monday with the cross-country sprint event. You can watch all the action on World Para Nordic Skiing’s website https://www.paralympic.org/prince-george-2019 and Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/paranordic, where live results are also available.