Russian Neutral Team Registered for Paralympic Games

BONN, Germany – The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has registered 33 athletes from Russia to compete as Neutral Paralympic Athletes (NPA) at the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Games following a meeting at IPC headquarters in Bonn on Thursday.

The Russian state news agency, TASS reports that the NPA delegation will consist of 81 people, 33 of them athletes. There are also three more athletes waiting to see if they will be admitted to the team with the IPC expected to make a decision on those three athletes by the end of next week.

The meeting took place between the IPC and Russian Paralympic officials, with the Russian Paralympic Committee Vice-President, Pavel Rozhkov the main official in attendance. The main hurdle will be delegation members getting their accreditation, with so little time to process it, that puts the delegation in the odd situation of receiving their credentials upon arriving at the Paralympic village.

With such a short time, the final approval of the delegation registration will be on March 1st allowing for the NPA delegation to move in on March 3rd. That will be just five days before the Games start on March 8th, a tight prep time for the NPA team.

The registration of the 33 athletes is a big step forward for Russia, which was absent from the Rio 2016 Games due to the state sponsored doping. While 33 is not what the full Russian team could be it symbolizes that progress has been made and should progress continue Russia may make its actual return in Tokyo in 2020.

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Para Alpine World Cup Wraps Up

KIMBERLY, Canada – Canadians took full advantage of being on home snow in the final Para Alpine World Cup meet of the season as skiers finalized their preparation for PyeongChang 2018 in just 24 days. There were two Super G races in Kimberly finally wrapping up what has been a vital season.

Both women’s standing races were phenomenally close, with less than one second separating the two leaders. It was Canadian 1-2 in the first race as Alana Ramsay very narrowly beat team mate Mollie Jepson by just 0.12 seconds with Dutchwoman Anna Jochemsen only 0.51 behind.

Jepson got her revenge in the second race, claiming the win by 0.43 seconds over Jochemsen, and it was a vital win. By claiming the win in the second race Jepson claimed the Super-G World Cup title finishing 20 points clear. But the crystal globe winner wasn’t present in Kimberly, Frenchwoman Marie Bochet, so dominant early in the year used that domination to claim the crystal globe despite missing the final event of the year.

Austrian Markus Salcher very nearly went perfect in the Super-G on the season having won the first leg, easily beating Switzerland’s Theo Gmur and Canadian Alexis Guimond. But Guimond broke his streak by winning the second race. Despite having that loss, Salcher claimed the world cup title and the overall crystal globe.

Mac Marcoux (Guide Jack Leitch) had a perfect weekend in Kimberly winning all four events claiming his second world cup overall title and the crystal globe. In the Super-G day on Sunday Slovak Jakub Krako finished second on both occasions, determined to challenge in PyeongChang.

The women’s vision impaired classification went down to the wire with Menna Fitzpatrick (guide Jennifer Kehoe) claiming first and second in her races. She edged out Slovakian Henrieta Farkasova for the Super-G World Cup title but Farkasova clamed the crystal globe for the overall win after a stunning season.

German Anna Schaffelhuber easily won the women’s sitting races, finishing well in front of her rivals to claim the Super-G title. Despite those big wins she just had too much to do to claim the overall crystal globe which went to Austrian Claudia Loesch.

It was phenomenally tight in the men’s sitting, with a 0.12 seconds gap in the first race with American Andrew Kurka just beating Norwegian Jesper Pedersen. The second race saw Pederson dropped to third behind two Japanese skiers with Akira Kano and Taiki Morii. By finishing on the podium twice Pedersen wrapped up the overall world cup title and will head to the Paralympic Games with a strong chance of winning.

Cross Country World Cup Winners Crowned

Zebastian Modin (Photo: IPC)

VUOKATTI, Finland – Champions were crowned in the cross country events of the Para Nordic Skiing World Cup following the final races of the final race of the season in Vuokatti, Finland on Friday.

Swede Zebastian Modin (guide Johannes Anderson) used two victories in Finland to claim the world cup cross country title winning the men’s long distance to go a long with his sprint title earlier in the meet. Those two wins not only gave Modin the cross country title but also earned him the crystal globe as the overall Nordic champion.

A brother/sister duo teamed up to win gold in the women’s vision impaired with Austrian Carina Edlinger (guide Julian Edlinger) easily winning, finishing more than a minute ahead of her nearest rival. That saw the teenager claim the world cup title, after shooting to the top of the cross country standings in recent weeks.

There was a 1-2 finish for the Neutral team in the men’s standing with Rushan Minnegulov beating his team mate Aleksandr Pronkov. That was enough for Minnegulov to claim the world cup thanks to team mate Vladislav Lekomtsev not finishing in the medals.

An all Neutral battle also came in the women’s standing as Anna Milenina was able to just edge out Ekaterina Rumyantseva for some revenge in the earlier races on the meet. That revenge was not enough to stop Rumyantseva from claiming the world cup title, after a strong run of performances earlier in the season.

Another neutral athlete claimed the women’s sitting race as Marta Zainulina finished almost 24 seconds ahead of her team mate. Despite Norwegian Birgit Skarstein finishing just outside the medals places she did just enough, finishing 14 points clear of Zainulina to claim the world cup title.

Ivan Golubkov claimed the sweep of the men’s sitting events in Vuokatti, leading the race from the very start. That win clinched Golubkov the world cup title easily dominating the classification with a 315 point lead in the final standings.

Final Snowboard Event Before PyeongChang Gets Started

Brenna Huckaby (Photo: IPC)

BIG WHITE, Canada – On Tuesday the Snowboard Cross World Cup titles were awarded as the Para Snowboard World Cup begun its final event in Big White ahead of the PyeongChang Paralympic Games.

Brenna Huckaby sealed a win in the women’s SB-LL1 ahead of fellow American Amy Purdy just edging her in the final. That win gave Huckaby the World Cup title, making her a strong favorite for the gold in PyeongChang next month.

Gurimu Narita also claimed the World Cup win thanks to gold on Tuesday as he beat out Canadian Alex Massie in the men’s SB-LL2 final. That gave Narita just enough points to beat Matti Suur-Hamari with New Zealander Carl Murphy finishing third on the day.

Frenchman Maxime Montaggioni came into the men’s SB-UL on top of the world cup standings and managed to seal his title with an impressive win. Canadian Curt Minard finished behind him on the day with Italian Jacopo Luchini winning the small final.

Mike Schultz lead an all-American 1-2-3 in the SB-LL1 as he wrapped up the snowboard cross title and the overall title. Schultz beat team mate Mark Mann in the final while fellow American Tyler Burdick managed the bronze.

Despite only making it to the quarter final, Dutchwoman Lisa Bunschoten still claimed the women’s SB-LL1 title. On the day Australian Joany Badenhorst claimed the win in the big final over Spaniard Astrid Fina Paredes, keeping the Australian’s chances of winning the crystal globe alive.

Biathlon World Cup Wraps up in Vuokatti

Liudmyla Liashenko in the women’s standing (Photo: IPC)

VUOKATTI, Finland – Sunday saw the 2017-18 biathlon Para Nordic World Cup season wrap up with the final biathlon races of the season, seeing big points given out to earn a number of athletes the crystal globes.

The men’s siting on the day was won by Ukrainian Taras Rad, part of a strong season from the Ukraine team, thanks to a strong finish. But that was not enough for him to enter the fight for the crystal globe which was claimed by Russian Ivan Golubkov, who finished second on the day, the first globe win for the Neutral Paralympic Athletes (NPA). Golubkov led NPA team mate Aleksandr Davidovich who finished third while Korean Eui Hyun Sin will be confident heading into his home games as he claimed second in the crystal globe race.

With Frenchman Benjamin Daviet missing the event he had to give up the globe as Russian Vladislav Lekomtsev claimed it by winning the race on Sunday. The win gave Lekomtsev the globe by 32 points pushing Daviet into second place while another neutral Aleksandr Pronkov came third well behind the two there.

Ukraine managed a big win in the men’s vision impaired race on the day with Vitaliy Lukyanenko and guide Ivan Marhyshak claimed the win, beating team mates Anatolii Kovalevskyi (guide Oleksandr Mukshyn) to claim the win. That pushed Lukyanenko to third in the crystal globe race with two neutral athletes claiming the two highest places with Stanislav Chokhlaev and Nikolai Polukhin claiming those honors.

The women’s sitting crystal globe race went down to the last race of the season with American Oksana Masters absent for the final race leaving things open. It was a Russian 1-2-3 in the Vuokatti race on Sunday with Irina Guilaeva claiming the gold. That gave Guilaeva the crystal globe with team mate Marta Zainullina finishing second and Masters in third.

Ukraine swept the women’s standing race with Liudmyla Liashenko winning easily ahead of Yuliia Batenkova-Bauman and Iryna Bui. But Liashenkos’s win was not enough to impact the race for the crystal globe with neutral athlete Ekaterina Rumyantseva claiming that crown.

That Ukrainian success continued as Oksana Shyshkova (guide Vitaliy Kazakov) claimed the win on the day, her second straight, which pushed her to second place in the world cup race. Neutral athlete Mikhanlina Lysova had already wrapped up the overall title and her result on Sunday mattered little.

Skiers do Doubles in Giant Slalom runs at Sella Nevea

Hyacinthe Deleplace (Photo: IPC)

SELLA NEVEA, Italy – Every event in the Grand Slalom day of competition at the Para Alpine Skiing Europa Cup in Sella Nevea saw winners win both runs, as the athletes edge closer to the Paralympic Games in the races on Wednesday.

In the women’s visually impaired both runs had the same 1-2-3 order with Veronika Aigner easily winning the race with guide Elisabeth Aigner. Korean Jae Rim Yang finished with a time 11 minutes behind for the silver medal.

Anna-Maria Rieder managed to go even faster in her second run as the two runs went in the same order in the women’s standing. Rieder managed to go 55.35 in her first run and even quicker, 54.18 in the second to finish in 1:49.53. Behind Rieder was Italian Melania Corradini five seconds back and just two seconds back was Swiss skier Elena Kratter.

Austria managed its second title of the day as Heike Eder claimed the women’s sitting, the only skier under two minutes in a time of 1:55.09. There was drama for the silver medal with the two skiers separated by just 0.01 of a second. Chinese skier Sitong Liu managed a big improvement on her second run, finishing in 59.33 to stand with a time of 2:00.85. That left Frenchwoman Meije Bidault with a target of 59.85, to take the temporary lead but Bidault fell agonizingly short finishing in 59.86.

The men’s visually impaired run was a tight fight for the medals, with the top two split by less than one second. Frenchman Hyacinthe Deleplace won both runs securing a time of 1:41.91 with Czech skier Patrik Hetmer finishing just behind in both runs finishing with 1:42.72. Pole Maciej Krezel finished in 51.41 in the second run, needing a quick run from Austrian Gernot Morgenfurt who did enough finishing in 52.11, just enough to claim bronze, just .23 of a second faster in the two runs.

Russian Aleksi Bugaev, competing as a neutral athlete, had the fastest run of the day with 47.56 in the second run to win in 1:36.25. Less than one second back was Markus Salcher, who led fellow Austrian Martin Wuerz onto the podium who finished three seconds back.

There was a stunning result in the second run of the men’s sitting, with Austrian Markus Gfatterhofer coming into the run in second place missing a gate and forced out of the competition. That opened the door for Georg Kreiter of Germany to take silver, just behind Pole Igor Sikorski, who led both runs finishing in 1:38.29.

Russian Suspension Upheld Through 2018 Paralympic Games

Russia’s 2014 Paralympic Games team (Photo: Sputnik)

LAUSANNE, Switzerland – The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has maintained the suspension of the Russian Paralympic Committee (RPC) ahead of the 2018 Paralympic Games, the IPC announced on Monday.

The decision will make it a second straight Paralympic Games that will not feature the Russian team, but Russian athletes will be able to compete as Neutral Paralympic Athletes (NPA) in five sports in PyeongChang. This is a departure from the decision in 2016 when no Russians were allowed to compete, and is a continued departure from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) which allowed the name Russia to appear in the neutral team name, the IPC will not be featuring the name Russia in the team name.

Allowing athletes to compete comes as an acknowledgement that there has been some progress made by the RPC, which has failed to meet all the requirements for reversing the suspension.

There are two more criteria that the RPC failed to meet to return to compliance, thus keeping the suspension in force. The World Anti-Doping Agency has not yet reauthorized the Russian Anti-Doping Agency and the RPC has not yet responded adequately to the findings of the McLaren report.

Despite missing those two crucial requirements, the IPC determined that the RPC had met four criteria, including beginning testing and introducing a whistleblower hotline. That led to the IPC making a new concession, allowing Russian athletes to compete in alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, snowboard, and wheelchair curling. The Russian team is not eligible for the para ice hockey competition as the suspension had it ineligible for qualification tournaments.

“Although the RPC remains suspended they have made significant progress and we have to recognise this. Russian Para athletes are now regularly tested and are amongst the most scrutinised Para athletes in the world,” said IPC president Andrew Parsons. “Under the supervision of WADA, we now have greater confidence that the anti-doping system in Russia is no longer compromised or corrupted.”

Due to Russia’s suspension from all IPC competition, and the timing of this announcement the NPA team will not receive any additional quotas, expanding the field, but rather will only have unused slots, a combination of qualifying that is not yet completed, or redistribution of slots that other National Paralympic Committees returned.

Not every Russian Paralympian will be deemed eligible, with full details available through the IPC there are some strict criteria for selection. Most notably only athletes that have been tested at least twice, and have been in the IPC Registered Testing Pool will be eligible to compete.

In addition to sanctions on athletes, there will be a ban on the Russian flag at Paralympic venues, and no members of Russian Ministries will be accredited for the Paralympic Games. Those athletes that are eligible will only have one more month to prepare but can now know that they are going.