U.S. Paralympics Nordic skiers conclude German trip at IPC Biathlon World Cup Final

By Caryn Maconi | Jan. 27, 2014, 11:35 a.m. (ET)
Andy Soule
Army veteran Andy Soule, who earned bronze in biathlon at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, finished 12th in the middle-distance biathlon event at the world cup final in Oberried, Germany.

OBERRIED, Germany – The U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing Team concluded its trip to Germany last weekend with strong performances at the International Paralympic Committee Biathlon World Cup Final at Nordic Center Notschrei.

Team USA garnered eight top-15 finishes in the last international competition before the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, which are set for March 7-16.

Navy Lt. Cmdr. Dan Cnossen (Topeka, Kan.) recorded the United States’ top performance on Saturday in the men’s sitting 15-kilometer biathlon. His time of 47 minutes, 22.4 seconds earned him 11th place. Teammate Andy Soule (San Antonio, Tex.), an Army veteran and Vancouver 2010 Paralympic bronze medalist, was close behind Cnossen in 14th.

Cnossen also raced well in the men’s 7.5k sprint biathlon, earning 12th with a time that was just over three minutes off of first place.

In Sunday’s 12.5k biathlon, Soule was the top U.S. finisher at 12th place with a time of 43:01.0. Soule shot a clean 20-for-20, a performance U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing High Performance Director John Farra said was a good sign leading into Sochi.

“That was a good way to end (the weekend),” Farra said. “That’s what it will take to win medals in this sport.”

Competing for Team USA on the women’s side were Oksana Masters (Louisville, Ky.) and Tatyana McFadden (Clarksville, Md.), both summer-sport Paralympians who are making their Nordic skiing debuts this season.

Masters and McFadden struggled to keep pace with a strong field of Russian and Ukranian competitors, as Masters’ 11th place out of 13 in the 10k biathlon was the highest finish of the weekend. Still, Farra said both women show promise in the sport and have ample time to make progress before Sochi.

Masters has already earned two bronze medals in cross-country competition this season and will make a mark on the biathlon team as her shooting begins to improve. McFadden, Farra said, skis and shoots well but is working on putting the two together efficiently in a race.

“Tatyana is taking a long time in the range, but she is making big progress for sure,” Farra said. “She actually shot clean in her last two shooting stages – amazing.”

Sunday’s races concluded a ten-day German trip for Team USA, as the IPC Cross-Country Skiing World Cup Final was held from Jan. 17-19 in Oberstdorf, Germany. There, Team USA earned one medal, a bronze for Masters in the 12k cross-country race.

Following the races in Oberstdorf, Team USA had six athletes in the top-20 in the season’s final IPC cross-country rankings.

In biathlon, the U.S. has eight athletes ranked in the top-20 across all divisions. Team USA is strongest in the men’s and women’s sitting divisions with Soule and Cnossen ranked ninth and 10th respectively and Masters, Beth Requist (Grand Lake, Colo.) and McFadden ranked 13th, 15th and 16th respectively.

The U.S. team now returns to Winter Park, Colo., to train in the weeks before the Paralympic Winter Games. Farra said lessons learned from Germany will allow Team USA to make the necessary improvements and excel in Sochi.  

“These races were an important part of Sochi preparation,” Farra said. “Now we get to go home, rest and start final preparations for Sochi with no travel for four weeks. The ski speed will come, and we are going to be ready to race. Sochi-Da!”  

At the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, most members of the U.S. Paralympic Nordic Skiing Team will compete in both cross-country and biathlon events. Team USA will name 17 total athletes to the team that will compete in Sochi, a significant increase from the six-member team at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games.   

The U.S. Paralympic Team that will compete in Sochi will be named no later than Jan. 31, 2014, and will be determined based on a points system that includes world cup results throughout the season.

Full results, rankings and additional information can be found at Paralympic.org