Aaron Pike competes in the men's 15km sitting cross-country skiing during day two of Paralympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 at Laura Cross-country Ski & Biathlon Center on March 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia.
Like all sports, Para Nordic skiing was impacted by the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. Races were cancelled, events were postponed and athletes had to quickly adapt to a shortened season unlike any they had ever seen.
Everyone seems relieved that 2020 is finally ending. With the new year about to begin, we scoured the web to find things from the Para Nordic skiing world to look forward to in 2021.
More Races Will Hopefully Take Place In 2021
It might sound simple, but for many Nordic skiers just getting the opportunity to race again in 2021 would be a win. Much of the Nordic skiing race schedule in 2020 got wiped out because of the coronavirus. While things could quickly change during the pandemic, there is the potential for more races to be held around the globe in 2021.
That would be a welcome change for athletes after spending the past few months training but with no immediate races to prepare for this past season.
Fans Will Finally Watch Paralympians Compete
Fans across the globe have had to wait longer than usual to watch elite athletes compete on the world’s largest stage, but that wait will soon end. The pandemic forced the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics to get rescheduled for this upcoming summer.
Some of the top American Para Nordic skiers are multiple-sport stars, including 17-time Paralympic medalist Tatyana McFadden and eight-time medalist Oksana Masters. They’ll get an opportunity in a few months to show their dominance away from snow at the Tokyo Paralympics. It will be something worth watching.
@OksanaMasters is a multitalented superstar! 🌟— Beijing 2022 (@Beijing2022) December 4, 2020
With medals from Summer & Winter Paralympics, World Cups & World Champs in #nordicskiing, #cycling, #biathlon and #rowing, she continues to defy the odds & inspire generations with her hard work & determination. 😍
📸: OIS pic.twitter.com/siO1UYZ5gg
Masters made here Paralympic debut in 2012 as a rower but has since transitioned to cycling in the summer, and in Rio she finished fourth in the road race and fifth in the time trial. That cross training helped her prepare for a dominant Nordic skiing performance in 2018, where she won two gold medals, two silver medals and one bronze medal in PyeongChang.
McFadden, meanwhile, is best known for her prowess in track and field and wheelchair marathons, and after winning five gold medals and a silver in Rio she’ll no doubt be a focal point for Team USA again in Tokyo. As a Nordic skier, McFadden competed in the 2014 Winter Games, winning a silver medal.
Athletes Get Another Year To Train For Lillehammer
The new year was expected to bring plenty of excitement and a bit of history to Para Nordic skiing. The first joint world championships for Para Nordic skiing, Para biathlon, Para alpine skiing and Para snowboard was originally scheduled for February in Lillehammer, Norway.
However, Lillehammer 2021 — as it’s still named — was pushed back to January 2022 because of uncertainty caused by the coronavirus.
Para Nordic skiers will now have another year to train for the world championships, in which 82 medals were expected to be awarded during the two-week event.
Athletes should benefit from having more time to prepare for the grind that they’ll face in Lillehammer. The world championships were scheduled to include 20 medal events for Para Nordic skiing and 18 for Para biathlon.
It’s Almost A Winter Paralympic Year, Too
Typically there’s only a year and a half between a Summer Paralympics and the subsequent Winter Games. This time the wait will be just six months. The Tokyo Games wrap up on Sept. 5, while the Beijing Winter Games start on March 4, 2022.
That means preparations will be well underway throughout 2021, with top Nordic skiers working to advance their qualification efforts and hone their fitness to peak at the perfect time.
Remote Living Offers More Opportunities For Digital Connectivity
By now, people have grown accustomed to connecting with each other over Zoom. That’ll likely continue for Para Nordic skiers in 2021. U.S. Paralympic Nordic Skiing coaches have been using virtual meetings to check in with athletes who are living across the country during the pandemic.
In a recent article on FasterSkier.com, Martin Benes, head coach of the U.S. Paralympic Nordic Ski Team, said coaches have regularly held virtual development camps and virtual meet-and-greets with athletes interested in learning more about Para Nordic skiing.
Eileen Carey, director of U.S. Paralympic Nordic Skiing, told FasterSkier.com that she’ll use virtual meetings to work with athletes even after the pandemic ends.
Moments To Remember
As athletes look ahead to what will hopefully be a busier new year, World Para Snow Sports shared its top 10 moments from 2020, which it called “a year like no other.”
It was a year like no other, but still with so many moments to celebrate. Here are our 🔝 10. https://t.co/ekJOVg9JWj— Para Snow Sports (@ParaSnowSports) December 21, 2020