Sprint Pursuit: New Dynamic Format in Para Biathlon

After a day of rest, para biathletes returned to the Martell World Cup, introducing the two-stage format known as Sprint Pursuit on Saturday. This event served as a trial before the upcoming March competition in Prince George, where it is set to debut in the World Championships program. The day was filled with emotions as the new discipline received favorable feedback from all attendees at the stadium.

The day commenced with a morning Sprint, where the results determined the starting list for the afternoon Pursuit. Athletes within each category whose final performance in the initial race falls within a 30% margin behind the first-place finisher were eligible to participate in the second race. Both stages covered a distance of 4 km, but the Sprint imposed a penalty of 20 seconds for each missed shot, while the Pursuit involved competitors running penalty rounds for any shooting mistakes. Interestingly, men's and women's pursuits in a given category were held simultaneously.

Among the biathletes competing in the sitting category, Kendall Gretsch was the best at adapting to the new competition format. The 31-year-old athlete from the USA, renowned for securing three gold medals in the previous year's WCH in Ostersund, commenced the race in the second position. However, in the final running round, she successfully closed the gap with Anja Wicker from Germany, who had initially taken the lead after the Sprint.

"It is a fun format. The conditions in the afternoon were completely different than they were in the morning. It got warmer and windier. You'll never know what will happen in that case, but it was still fun and exciting. I am thrilled with my performance," said Gretsch, who overtook the bib of a World Cup leader from Oksana Masters. The second American finished third.

In the men's competition, Taras Rad from Ukraine secured the top position by crossing the finish line with a forty-second lead despite starting the race in fourth place. His impeccable shooting performance played a crucial role in surpassing his competitors. Vasyl Kravchuk, another Ukrainian athlete who finished second, faced challenges with three missed shots, while Aaron Pike from the USA, securing the third position, had to run one penalty round.

Within the women's standing category, Lyudmyla Liashenko sought vengeance against Oleksandra Kononova for her previous defeat in Wednesday's Sprint. Ukrainian athletes claimed the entirety of the podium, with Bohdana Konashuk securing the third position. In the men's competition, the podium displayed greater diversity. Mark Arendz from Canada maintained his lead after the Sprint, even with two penalty rounds. Benjamin Daviet from France displayed perfect shooting, trailing the winner by 22 seconds. Nazar Shevchyk from Ukraine secured the third position.

In the vision impaired category, spectators witnessed the dominance of the German women's and Ukrainian men's teams, leaving no room on the podium for representatives of any other nation. Linn Kazmaier and Oleksandr Kazik further solidified their roles as leaders in the overall World Cup classification, both securing victories with impressive margins of over a minute.


Sunday will feature 10 km competitions, the final races before the upcoming World Championships in Prince George, scheduled from March 4 to 10.

Photos: Krystek/IBU

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