OBERSTDORF, Germany – At the International Paralympic Committee Nordic Skiing World Cup Final, Team USA’s top Nordic skiers made their last mark on the international competition before the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.
For the approximately 125 athletes from 19 nations competing in Oberstdorf, the event marked the last chance to move up the rankings in hopes of punching a ticket to the Sochi Games, which are set for March 7-16.
Oksana Masters (Louisville, Ky.) led the way for Team USA, earning a bronze medal in Friday’s women’s 12-kilometer sit-ski cross-country race.
Masters’ podium appearance was her second this season, as she also earned bronze in the women’s 5km cross-country race at the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup in Canmore, Alberta, in December. Though she is not new to Paralympic sport – she earned bronze at the London 2012 Paralympic Games in rowing – Masters is making her Nordic skiing debut this season.
She finished the 12km race in 34 minutes, 47. 1 seconds, more than seven seconds ahead of the next competitor. Tatyana McFadden (Clarksville, Md.) also placed well in the distance race, earning a ninth-place finish in 36:48.2.
On the men’s side, Vancouver 2010 Paralympian and Air Force Veteran Sean Halsted (Spokane, Wash./Twin Lakes, Idaho) was the top American in 12th place. Halsted finished the 15km race in 38:59.3. Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dan Cnossen (Topeka, Kan.) and Army veteran Andy Soule (San Antonio, Tex.), a Vancouver 2010 Paralympic bronze medalist, were close behind in 14th and 16th place, respectively.
In Saturday’s sprint race, McFadden had an outstanding performance, advancing to the finals and finishing fifth overall. Masters also advanced to the finals, ultimately earning ninth, while Halsted advanced in the men’s race and finished 10th in the final.
Sunday’s middle-distance events capped off the cross-country competition. Masters had the top race of the day for the U.S., earning seventh in the 5km race with a time of 13.52.2. McFadden was 25 seconds behind Masters, earning 11th place overall.
In the men's 10km race, Halsted, Soule and Cnossen all finished in the top-20, with just 20 seconds separating Halsted (14th) and Cnossen (19th). With a time of 25:24.9, Halsted crossed the line less than two minutes behind race winner Chris Klebl of Canada.
The world cup standings after the event list three male and three female U.S. athletes in the top-20. Halsted, Soule and Cnossen are listed in 13th, 16th and 17th place respectively. On the women’s side, Masters holds the sixth-place spot, with McFadden in 12th and Monica Bascio (Evergreen, Colo.) in 18th.
Several members of the U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing National Team will also compete at the IPC Biathlon World Cup Final, which runs from Jan. 23-26 in Oberried, Germany.
The U.S. Team that will compete at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games will be named no later than Jan. 31, 2014, and will be determined on a points system that includes world cup results throughout the season.
Team USA will send 17 athletes in total to compete in Nordic skiing events in Sochi, a significant increase from the six-member team that competed at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.
Full results and additional information from the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup Final can be found at IPC-WorldCup.com.