Russian athletes showed no traces of a hangover from the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games on Wednesday (10 December), dominating the first day of biathlon competition at the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup in Vuokatti, Finland.
In Sochi, Russia won 12 of the 18 biathlon titles available and in Wednesday's sprints, they stood top of the podium in four out of the six races.
In partly cloudy conditions, clean shooting was the order of the day in the men's standing, with four out of the top five finishers not dropping a shot.
Leading the way was Russia's Paralympic champion Vladislav Lekomtcev (18:46.2) who claimed victory in the 7.5km three lap race ahead of Norway's Nils Erik Ulset (19:29.4). Had he not dropped four shots then Ukraine's Ihor Reptyukh (19:41.9) may have finished second. Instead wayward shooting meant he had to settle for third, edging out his teammate Grygorii Vovchynski (19:43.3) by the narrowest of margins.
In the absence of six-time Sochi Paralympic champion Roman Petushkov, who did not start in the men's sitting, teammate Aleksandr Davidovich (21:46.0) topped an all-Russian podium in the closest race of the day.
Despite dropping one shot, the 30-year-old, who won two bronze medals in Sochi, finished ahead of Alexey Bychenok (22:01.0) and Ivan Golubkov (22.03.1).
The men's visually impaired race was won by France's Thomas Clarion (20:01.4) and guide Julien Clarion.
Second was Russia's Stanislav Chokhlaev (18:54.1) and guide Evgenii Fatkhullin whilst third was Ukraine's Iurii Utkin (20:18.0) and guide Vitalii Kazakov.
In the women's 6km sitting sprint, Germany's Paralympic champion Andrea Eskau was absent opening the door for her rivals.
Russia's Marta Zaynullina (19:47.1), a fifth place finisher in this event in Sochi, shot clean to take full advantage and claim victory. Teammate Svetlana Konovalova (20:52.8) took second just like she did in Sochi, whilst Belarus' Lidziya Hrafeyeva (20:54.9) was third.
There was a small shock in the women's standing when Russia's Paralympic champion Alena Kaufman (20.29.3) could only manage a third place finish. Victory went to Oleksandra Kononova, Ukraine's Paralympic champion over the 12.5km biathlon, whilst Maija Jarvela (19:35.5) claimed host country Finland's only podium finish of the day in second.
Rounding off a productive day for the Russians, Sochi 2014 silver medallist Iuliia Budaleeva (19:08.5) and guide Tatiana Maltseva led home the field in the women's visually impaired. Her teammate Elena Remizova (20.09.5) and guide Maksim Pirogov was second and Ukraine's Oksana Shyshkova (20:16.3) and guide L Nesterenko third.
More than 100 athletes from 12 countries are in Vuokatti for the first World Cup event of the 2014-2015 season. Competition will continue on Thursday with the biathlon individual and all races will give a good indicator of form ahead of the 2015 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships which will take place in Cable, USA, between 23 January and 1 February