Silver medallist Oksana Masters poses during the women’s sitting cross-country skiing long-distance medal ceremony during the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on March 6, 2022 in Zhangjiakou, China.
ZHANGJIAKOU, China – Oksana Masters is two-for-two in podium appearances at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022.
She raced to a silver medal in the Para cross-country skiing women’s long-distance sitting race finishing in 43:38.8 on Sunday at the Zhangjiakou National Biathlon Centre. China’s Hongqiong Yang won gold in 43:06.7 and teammate Panpan Li finished in 45:17.0 to win bronze. Team USA’s Kendall Gretsch finished just off the podium in fourth with a time of 46:26.2.
“I was trying so hard to get the gold,” Masters said. “I was trying to upgrade from silver in Sochi and the PyeongChang bronze, but I'm just so happy to to be able to fight my way onto the podium. I can't wait to see the U.S. flag being raised today at the medal ceremony.”
Masters, 32, said she fought hard throughout the grueling distance race, drawing on the energy of her coaches on the sidelines and the local fans cheering in the stadium. The 15-kilometer long-distance race was made harder for both Masters and Gretsch, who also competed and won medals in the biathlon sprint race on Saturday.
Another compounding factor for the Team USA racers was the Chinese athletes, who don’t compete regularly on the world stage in non-Paralympic years. Masters said they were the surprise factor for the U.S. headed into the race.
“We kind of saw yesterday that they're here and they're going to be racing well,” Masters said. “At the same time, it's just really exciting to see that they are racing well because it's going to be growing Para biathlon and cross country here in China. It's a sport that is underrepresented so to have more countries competing is exciting.”
Team USA’s women came out fighting in Sunday’s final as they have done time and time again on the world stage. Masters skied several seconds faster than her world championship winning time from January. She is the reigning world champion in both the sprint and long-distance sitting events. Gretsch also improved on her long-distance world championship time, and is the current world champion of the middle-distance sitting race.
With two podium finishes and four remaining races on her program, Masters is looking forward to make the most of her time on the Paralympic course.
“This course is not really technical so there's not a lot of places to make up time,” Masters said. “I wish there were more elements of skiing in it, but I think it challenged me in a really different way and I'm excited to see what the next few races have.”