Paralympics, days 8-9: Russia smashes records

In the last two days of competition in Sochi, the Russian team won a string of stunning victories and confirmed their status as champions of the Winter Paralympic Games

The Russians scored impressive results in the standing 10km freestyle ski event. Source: RIA Novosti

Victoria Kolesnichenko, special to RBTH

In the closing days of the Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russian athletes won sixteen medals, bringing the event to a joyful conclusion for the host nation, which, just as in the Winter Olympics, finished top of the standings. Russia’s athletes ended up with a staggering total of 80 medals –a Paralympic record. 

Cross-Country Skiing

In the 4 x 2.5 km mixed relay, Russian athletes Svetlana Konovalova, Alena Kaufmann, Yelena Remizova and Nikolai Polukhin took first place, covering the distance in 27 minutes and 35.6 seconds. The Swedes came off second best, just 8.7 seconds behind the leaders, leaving the Norwegian team to take bronze.

The Russians scored impressive results in the standing 10km freestyle ski event. Sixteen-year-old Alexander Pronkov romped home first, Vladimir Kononov took second place and Vladislav Lekomtsev followed up to win the bronze, ensuring a Russian sweep of the podium.

“I cannot believe that I won. I thought I’d never do it,” said winner Alexander Pronkov. “I did not expect gold. I wanted to get at least some medals. I saw Vladimir Kononov as the champion. He has been training so hard and for so long, and worked so hard for the medal. And I have never been in a leadership role yet. I am only 16. I joined the team just a year ago. I think this victory – it is not my merit, but the merit of my coaches.”

The situation was to repeat itself in the women’s visually impaired 5km race. Yelena Remizova captured gold, while Mikhalina Lysova snatched silver and the bronze medal went to Yulia Budaleyeva.

The skier Stanislav Chokhlayev won silver in the men’s visually impaired 10km freestyle event. Canadian Brian McKeever won gold in this race, coming in seven seconds ahead. Frenchman Thomas Clarion took third-place honors.

Russian athlete Anna Milenina sprinted to gold in the standing 5km freestyle, coming in 12.5 seconds in front of Ukrainian athletes Yulia Batenkova and Oleksandra Kononova, who won silver and bronze, respectively.

Biathlon

The Russian team of Roman Petushkov, Vladislav Lekomtsev, Gregory Murygin and Rushan Minnegulov swept to gold with an exceptional performance in the 4 x 2.5km open relay. The Ukrainians won silver and French athletes took bronze.

“We did our training with the Olympic team. [Russian biathlete] Anton Shipulin even said in an interview that he is a fan of our team and his eyes fill with tears when he sees how we train” Pyetushkov told reporters after the race. “I kept his words in my head, I am very thankful to him, and I have won all biathlon competitions with this thought in my mind,” he said.

Alpine Skiing

Though the men’s giant slalom (visually impaired) was won by Canadian Mac Marcoux, Russian Valery Redkozubov picked up the bronze medal. Jakub Krako from Slovakia got the silver.

Teenage Russian sensation Alexei Bugayev won another medal in the giant slalom standing category, coming in second to win silver. Frenchman Vincent Gauthier-Manuel bested him with a combined time of 2 minutes and 25.87 seconds after two runs. Austrian athlete Markus Salcher finished third.

Meanwhile, Alexandra Frantseva was unable to catch Slovakian Henrietta Farkasova in the women’s giant slalom (visually impaired) and had to settle for silver. Third place went to Australian athlete Jessica Gallagher.

Finals in curling and sledge hockey

Russians also became Paralympic silver medalists in the curling tournament, losing 3-8 to the Canadian team in the final. The British team came third in the event.

Russia’s sledge hockey players also ended up silver medalists in their discipline. The U.S. team proved too strong for them in the final, beating the Russians 1-0. In the end, bronze went to the Canadians, who dispatched Norway 3:0 in the third-place play-off.

“Our team was physically ready one hundred percent. Unfortunately, we had no experience of performing in the finals,” said Nikolai Sharshukov, the Russian coach. “We had already defeated the Americans in the group stage, but the excitement strongly affected us in the decisive match. In fact, this was a different responsibility, as well as the flurry of emotions coming from the fans - our fans just roared.”

However, Sharshukov was optimistic about his team’s chances in four years’ time, adding: “I think in Korea, we can count on gold in sledge hockey. The most important thing is that our guys have the desire to go further.”

By the end of the Paralympics, the hosts of the Games had in their coffer 80 medals - 30 of them gold. In the final medal standings, the team of Germany took second place and Canada closed the top three leaders.

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