Aaron Pike competes during the 2023 FIS Para Nordic Skiing World Championships on Jan. 21, 2023 in Östersund, Sweden.
Dan Cnossen and Dani Aravich decided to simplify their lives and their training schedules after competing at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 last March.
Aravich, who ran cross country and track and field at Butler University, made her Paralympic debut as a sprinter at the 2020 Tokyo Games. However, she chose this offseason to stop running competitively and instead focus on improving as a Para Nordic skier.
Cnossen had a similar decision to make as he prepared for the FIS Para Nordic World Championships in Östersund, Sweden, which began Saturday and runs through Jan. 29.
The former Navy SEAL has won three of his seven Paralympic medals in the biathlon, including a gold at the 2018 PyeongChang Games. Still, he opted to not compete in the biathlon this season so he could stay fresh for his cross-country skiing races.
“I don’t need to prove anything to myself. I just love (skiing) so much,” said Cnossen, a three-time Paralympian who’ll turn 43 in May. “I love racing, and it’s just a little bit more fun, I think, to race fresh at this point in my career and just to be out there, representing the country on this team.
“I just don’t want it to end, and that’s why I’m still doing it.”
It has been a quick turnaround for the six American skiers and one guide who are competing at the world championships only 10 months after they raced at the Beijing Winter Paralympics.
Since this isn’t a Paralympic year, the world championships will be the highest-profile international competition that Team USA competes in this season.
As a result, the Americans have had to adjust their training to ensure they perform their best early in the season instead of at the end of the season like a year ago. They need to ski fast and be accurate with their rifle shooting in January, not March.
Team USA got off to a strong start at the world championships with two dual-sport stars each earning a medal on Jan. 21.
After wrapping up her paratriathlon season in November with a silver medal at the world championships, six-time Paralympic medalist Kendall Gretsch won her eighth career world title with a victory in the women’s 7.5-kilometer sprint biathlon race. Meanwhile, six-time Paralympian Aaron Pike, who also competes in track and field, earned the silver medal in the men’s 7.5-kilometer sprint biathlon race.
“We had a really late worlds for triathlon this year, so I didn’t get the same transition into the ski season as I normally would,” Gretsch told USParaNordicSkiing.org. “But I do think that fitness from triathlon helped me prepare for this. I’ve been trying to use the last month or so to get back those ski muscles.”
Gretsch’s fitness shone through on day two as well. The Illinois native picked up her second gold medal of the competition in the 18-km individual classic crow-country race on Jan. 22. In the men’s visually impaired 18-km individual classic, four-time Paralympic medalist Jake Adicoff and his guide Sam Wood secured a silver medal.