Masters, Peterson and Adicoff continue world championship medal haul
by Annemarie Blanco
Sydney Peterson competes in the cross-country competition at Lillehammer 2021.
LILLEHAMMER, NORWAY – Team USA continued its victorious run in Lillehammer picking up one gold and two silvers on the last day of individual cross-country events at the 2021 Lillehammer World Para Snow Sports Championships. It was a fast-paced day of cross-country sprints beginning with qualification rounds, two rounds of semifinals in each class and a grand finale to decide the world’s top three.
The queen of cross-country, 10-time Paralympic medalist Oksana Masters (Louisville, Kentucky) nabbed her third consecutive world title in the women’s sitting race to add a sixth medal to her tally and 11th overall championship win. The top seed after the first two rounds, Masters came into the final stretch behind Belarus’ Valiantsina Shyts but saved the best for last with a surge to take her ahead in the final moments of competition. Masters has also picked up a gold in the cross-country long-distance alongside her two silver and two bronze medals in biathlon.
“It feels incredible, it doesn’t feel that long ago that I was barely making finals in sprint, or I couldn’t finish a sprint without falling or breaking a pole,” said Masters. “To be able to have a third consecutive world championship title in this event is just incredible.”
A fresh face on the international scene Sydney Peterson (Lake Elmo, Minnesota) proved once again that she’s a force to be reckoned with, taking her second silver and third overall medal in Lillehammer. The 19-year-old overcame an array of unforeseen missteps in the first two rounds to grab a spot in the finals where she netted just four seconds behind Norway’s Vilde Nilsen to the second-place spot in a time of 3:03.6. Teammate Dani Aravich (Boise, Idaho) narrowly missed the semi-final round of competition after ranking ninth in the qualification round where only the top eight advanced.
“I had some mishaps the first two races this morning so I’m glad that things worked out for the finals,” said Peterson. “I’m pretty excited that was a really fun race. It will be fun to continue racing.”
Long-time friends and newly minted cross-country teammates Jake Adicoff (Sun Valley, Idaho) and guide Sam Wood (Sun Valley, Idaho) went three-for-three in the men’s VI cross-country taking a world championship silver just behind RPC’s Oleg Ponomarev. The dynamic duo has medaled in every event they’ve competed in at Lillehammer 2021 taking one of every color including a title in the cross-country middle-distance and bronze in the long-distance. While Adicoff is no stranger to the Para Nordic scene having competed in two Games and taking silver at the Paralympic Winter Games PyeongChang 2018, the pair have only been competing alongside one another for less than a year’s time.
“I’m feeling pretty good,” said Adicoff. “This is an improvement from the classic sprint in Canmore, we’re pretty happy with the result and it’s super fun racing out there. [We’re taking away] a little bit of confidence and then to be off that gold medal for two races now that’s what we’re looking for - gold in Beijing.”
Saturday’s sitting competition also featured three veteran Paralympians in the day’s events. Paralympic champion Kendall Gretsch (Downers Grove, Illinois) made her way to the women’s sitting finale poised for the podium alongside Masters however a late fall on the last hill bumped her off track momentarily and out of medal position. Gretsch, who’s had an incredible championship run the includes three titles, ended the race in fifth position. Recent silver medal winner Aaron Pike (Park Rapids, Minnesota) placed in the top eight during the men’s sitting qualification however a fifth-place finish in the semifinal round knocked him out of contention. Teammate Dan Cnossen (Topeka, Kansas) placed 16th in the qualification round with only the top 12 advancing.
Team USA will return to the Birkebeineren Skitadion for a final day of racing on Sunday as the Americans will look for gold in the relay competition. All events will be streamed live on the U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing Facebook Page. Follow U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for daily updates from Lillehammer.
For media requests and photo inquiries, please contact Annemarie Blanco at Annemarie.Blanco@usopc.org.