Oksana Masters, Andy Soule take fourth in biathlon

By Nick Kiger | March 08, 2014, 8:45 a.m. (ET)
Andy Soule
Andy Soule, U.S. Army veteran, finished fourth in his first even of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

KRASNAYA POLYANA, Russia - The U.S. Paralympic Nordic Skiing Team opened competition in the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in dramatic fashion, narrowly missing the podium twice today at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Center. 

Sit skiers Andy Soule (San Antonio, Texas) and Oksana Masters (Louisville, Ky.) both finished fourth in their races today, the 7.5km and 6km biathlon, respectively.

Soule, who collected a bronze medal in the 2.4km biathlon at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, put together a solid race that included perfect scores in shooting but was edged out by just 2.9 seconds by Japan’s Kozo Kubo. Kubo’s time was 21:45.6 and Soule finished in 21:48.5.

Russia’s Roman Petushkov won the event in a time of 21:03.7.

Soule was extremely pleased with his performance and will look to feed off of the momentum from today’s fourth place finish heading into the rest of his events.

“I had a great day today. It was the best race of the season for me,” said Soule following the race. “I thought it was a very solid start to the Games and I have a lot of confidence from this.”

Soule, who is slated to compete in at least six Nordic events in Sochi, will be in action again tomorrow when he takes part in the 15km cross-country race.

Masters, a bronze medalist in rowing at the 2012 Paralympic Games is making her Paralympic Winter Games debut in Sochi and surprised herself and many others today, including U.S. team leader John Farra, by nearly medaling in her first event.

“This woman knows how to compete. She came to play and set herself up for an amazing race which just shows what type of competitor she is,” said Farra. “I’m excited to see what she can do with the rest of her time here.”

Throughout her race Masters continually gained ground on the competition thanks in part to her stellar shooting.

“It’s the first time I have ever cleaned at a race let alone cleaned all the shooting stages,” noted Masters.

Masters had a chance to land on the podium but slipped just slightly coming around the final turn, resulting in a time of 19:43.2, just 3.6 seconds behind the Ukraine’s Olena Iurkovska who finished third with a time of 19:39.6.

Germany’s Andrea Eskau won gold in the event with a time of 19:12.4.

Her fourth place finish was the best finish of her short career in biathlon and now gives her the assurance that additional top performances are certainly within reach here in Sochi.

“I am very happy with my race today. This was a really good surprise to start the Games for me.”

Masters will be in action again tomorrow when she turns her focus to cross-country, competing in the 12km event. 

Several other Americans also competed in biathlon events today.

Lt. Cmdr. Dan Cnossen (Topeka, Kan.) competed alongside Soule in the 7.5 km biathlon finishing 14th overall with a time of 24:13.8. Jeremy Wagner (Nanakuli, Hawaii), Aaron Pike (Park Rapids, Minn.) and Travis Dodson (Deming, N.M.) also competed in the same event finishing 18th, 19th and 20th respectively.

Sean Halsted (Spokane, Wash.) was disqualified from the race after firing six shots in the second shooting portion of the event.

In the men’s 7.5 km standing biathlon, Paralympic rookie Omar Bermejo (Grand Rapids, Mich.), who was cheered on by a large group of family and friends finished in 18th place overall with a time of 24:22.8.

In the final event of the day the men’s 7.5km visually impaired biathlon Jake Adicoff (Sun Valley, Idaho) finished 14th and Kevin Burton (Boulder, Colo.) finished in 16th.

The Americans will return to competition Sunday which will mark the beginning of the cross-country skiing events.