Para Biathlon Season Kickoff: Ukrainian Dominance and Comeback Stories in Martell

The inaugural event of the 2023/24 para biathlon season, held on Thursday in Martell, saw anticipation peak as nearly 70 male and female athletes showcased their skills across a 7.5 km course. The competition day featured three distinct categories—sitting, standing, and vision impaired—highlighting the diverse talents within the para-athletic community. Notably, the Ukrainian national team emerged triumphant, securing three victories and setting an impressive tone for the season ahead.

The day's highlight centered on the triumphant comeback of Oksana Masters, whose most recent biathlon appearance dated back to the Paralympic Games in Beijing. Following that event, she underwent treatment for injuries, leading to her absence from last year's World Championships in Ostersund. The inaugural para biathlon competition marked her return in grand fashion, as she not only completed the course with the best time but also surprised herself by flawlessly hitting all ten targets. In the sitting category, the Americans dominated with a double victory, courtesy of the triple-world champion from 2023, Kendall Gretsch. The men's competition in the same category mirrored this success, as Ukraine secured a double triumph. Taras Rad emerged victorious, narrowly defeating Pavlo Bal by less than 20 seconds.

The female part of the Ukrainian national team, participating in the standing category, repeated this success. Liudmyla Liashenko, with one mistake at the shooting range, lost only to her teammate Oleksandra Kononova. Meanwhile, the men's competition within this starting group unfolded as a closely contested battle. Initially, Serhii Romaniuk of Ukraine and Marco Maier of Germany took turns leading the race. Mark Arendz displayed remarkable endurance in the latter part of the distance, ultimately securing the win. Noteworthy is that all three athletes exhibited flawless marksmanship, and the differences at the finish line were marginal.

"It is fantastic that the racing is so competitive. Everything was really close to the first shooting. After that, in the second part of the race, things started to open up a little bit. I am really happy I could feed off splits and hear what was going on. It is good for me that I had that power and fitness to react", said Arendz.

"There is for sure no room for mistakes anymore", he added.

The dessert of Thursday's competition featured participants from the vision impaired category, with German athletes dominating the women's race. Linn Kazmaier claimed the top spot, followed by Leonie Maria Walter in second place and Johanna Recktenwald in third place. The men's race witnessed a similarly close outcome, with three Ukrainians securing positions in the top four. Anthony Chalencon from France upheld the honour of the rest of the world, clinching the third spot on the podium. Oleksandr Kazik continued his impressive winning streak from Ostersund, winning three gold medals there. In the week's first competition, he surpassed Iaroslav Reshetynskyi by less than twenty seconds.

Header iconPara Biathlon World Cup Martell Day 1

More drama will follow as Saturday promises excitement with the Sprint Pursuit, while Sunday in Martell will feature the Individual competition.

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