January 8 - Despite the presence of some of Ukraine's top skiers, who were missing in Canmore, Russian athletes once again put on a dominant display on the first day of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Nordic Skiing World Cup in Vuokatti.
After an almost complete monopolisation of the medal placings in Canada last month, it was a similar story here in Finland as Russian athletes took 13 of the 18 medals on offer in the cross country events.
In the visually impaired middle distance events, there was a Russian clean-sweep in both the men's and women's competitions.
Elena Remizova and guide Natalia Yakamova followed up their long distance win in Canmore with victory in the shorter version, finishing ahead of world champion Mikhalina Lysova and guide Alexey Ivanov, with Iuliia Budaleeva and guide Tatiana Maltseva completing the podium.
Stanislav Chokleav and his guide Maksim Pirogov performed a similar feat in the men's race by besting compatriot and world champion Nikolay Polukhin and his guide Andrey Tokarev, while Aleksandr Artemov, guided by Ilya Cherapanov, finished in third spot.
Vancouver 2010 silver medallist Roman Petushkov took top honours in the men's middle distance sitting competition, seeing off the challenge of compatriot and short distance biathlon world champion Grigory Murygin, who finished third, while Ukrainian Maksym Yarovyi split the Russians on the podium.
Germany's Vancouver 2010 silver medallist Andrea Eskau finally managed to break the Russian hold on the gold medals in Vuokatti as she led home Maria Iovleva and Svetlana Konovalova in the women's middle distance race.
The reigning cross-country sprint world champion, who also claimed World Championship gold in the biathlon 12.5 kilometres discipline in Sollefteå last year, was making her World Cup season debut after missing the meeting in Canmore.
"I tried to improve some things in the summer, so I was really nervous about my first race," said Eskau, who also took two Para-cycling gold medals at London 2012.
"I have tried to improve my technique and I also got a new sledge.
"Then you are more nervous than normal.
"I am really excited also about biathlon races; I have also tried to improve my shooting.
"In Sochi I have better chances in cross-country skiing."
The women's classic standing competition produced the only other non-Russian winner of the day as Ukraine's Oleksandr Kononova edged out Canmore winner Alena Kaufman, while Kononova's teammate, short distance biathlon and long distance freestyle cross-country world champion Iuliia Batenkova, claimed third.
Normal service was resumed in the men's race as Vladislav Lekomtcev claimed the gold medal, finishing ahead of short and long distance freestyle cross country world champion Ihor Reptyukh of Ukraine, with another medal going to Russia in the form of third placed man Rushan Minnegulov.
The IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup continues tomorrow with the short and middle distance freestyle competitions.
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