Kendall Gretsch competes in the 18-kilometer individual classic at the 2023 FIS Para Nordic Skiing World Championships. (Photo: Ralf Kuckuck)
ÖSTERSUND, SWEDEN – Already a world champion in 2023, Kendall Gretsch (Downers Grove, Illinois) surged to victory for the second consecutive day, this time in the women’s sitting 18-kilometer individual classic to lead Team USA on day two of the 2023 FIS Para Nordic Skiing World Championships. Joining Gretsch on the podium was Paralympic champion Jake Adicoff (Sun Valley, Idaho) and guide Sam Wood (Harpswell, Maine), who teamed for silver in the men’s visually impaired competition.
For the second day in a row, all three Team USA athletes who competed finished in the top-five in their respective races. Three-time Paralympic medalist Sydney Peterson (Lake Elmo, Minnesota) made her Östersund debut with a fourth-place result in the women’s standing race.
Gretsch once again pulled out a dominant victory, taking the lead in the first lap and building it throughout the six-lap competition. The six-time Paralympic medalist held a slim 13-second lead over eventual silver medalist Anja Wicker of Germany until the 4.9-kilometer mark, but was able to pull away thereafter. By the time she crossed the finish line, Gretsch was ahead of the field by more than three minutes and crossed the finish line in 1:02:32.2.
After winning silver at the 2022 World Paratriathlon Championships in November, Gretsch has responded to a quick transition to her winter sport with two world titles in the first two days of racing. The win is her ninth career world title and her 15th overall world championships medal.
Competing at the 18-kilometer distance today was a change for Gretsch, as typical long distance classic races for women are 15-kilometers. She took on the challenge with her trademark poise.
“I’m really excited about this race,” Gretsch said. “It’s one of the longer races I’ve ever done before. I felt good throughout the whole thing and had fun, so I’m excited.”
Gretsch credited the emphasis the U.S. team puts on training the technical aspects of the sport, which benefits her on this particular course.
“I think this course, it has a lot of technical turns, which is something we practice a lot as a team,” Gretsch said. “Because of that, I think it’s one of my strong points. Östersund is one of my favorite places that we come and race. I enjoy it every time.”
Gretsch is scheduled to race in every remaining individual competition available, giving her four more chances to compete. The Östersund program also offers two relays, for which the American teams have not yet been announced.
Adicoff and Wood, who won three medals together at the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 and three medals at last year’s world championships, reunited in their Östersund debut today for silver in the men’s visually impaired competition.
With Wood as his guide, Adicoff had the best season of his career in 2022 and kept the momentum going with today’s podium. Posting a time of 32:04.4, the three-time Paralympian finished behind only Sweden’s Zebastian Modin.
It was the pair’s first major international competition since the Paralympics – they will return to the snow on Tuesday for the cross-country sprint.
“It’s been interesting getting back into it, but we still feel comfortable skiing together from all the time we’ve spent training,” Adicoff said. “Just getting here, getting the rhythm back, it came pretty quickly. We spent some time getting back in the groove after some time off. We want to win the rest of these races this week.”
A three-time Paralympic medalist in Beijing, Peterson opened her 2023 world championships campaign with a fourth-place finish in the women’s standing race.
Peterson, who made an immediate impact in her rookie season in 2022, today skied to a time of 1:01:48.4. The St. Lawrence University junior held onto third place through the first six kilometers of the race before Canadian Brittany Hudak edged in front of her.
The three-time world championships medalist still has plenty of opportunity to earn her fourth – she is set to compete in the cross-country sprint and middle distance races as well as the 10-kilometer biathlon, plus any relay opportunities should she be named to one of the U.S. relay teams.
Athletes have a training day Monday before resuming competition with the cross-country sprint races on January 24, in which all six U.S. athletes plus Wood are scheduled to compete. Follow U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for live updates from Östersund.
For media requests and photo inquiries, please contact Kristen Gowdy at Kristen.Gowdy@usopc.org.