Team USA collects a medal of each color in final individual races in Östersund

by Kristen Gowdy

Sydney Peterson competes in the women's standing 10-kilometer cross-country race. (Photo: Ralf Kuckuck)

ÖSTERSUND, SWEDEN – Paralympic medalists Kendall Gretsch (Downers Grove, Illinois), Jake Adicoff (Sun Valley, Idaho), and Sydney Peterson (Lake Elmo, Minnesota) wrapped their individual schedules at the 2023 FIS Para Nordic Skiing World Championships with podium performances, bringing home a medal of each color for Team USA in the 10-kilometer cross-country competition.


Gretsch finished her stellar week with her fifth world title, while Adicoff teamed with guide Sam Wood (Harpswell, Maine) for silver, and Peterson gutted out a bronze.


In the women’s sitting race, Gretsch powered to her sixth medal of the week, beating out the rest of the field by over a minute. In addition to her five gold medals in Östersund, the six-time Paralympic medalist also took silver in the cross-country sprint.


According to Gretsch, her success this week came largely because of the preparation and training she put into her skiing this season. The U.S. team has had an abbreviated competition schedule, and world championships were the team’s first international races of the season.


“For this week, I really wanted to come out and perform well,” Gretsch said. “I put in a really good training block leading up to this, so I really wanted to push myself in all of the races. Managing the whole week, it’s a lot of races, so trying to prepare and recover is something I’ve learned how to do over time.”


After joining many of her teammates in Soldier Hollow, Utah, for the final world cup of the season in March, Gretsch will shift her attention to paratriathlon and qualifying for the Paralympic Games Paris 2024.


“I want to finish the season out strong in the world cup final,” Gretsch said. “Then this summer is huge. It’s the start of the qualification period for Paris and our first chance to make the team. That’s my goal this year, to solidify that spot.”


Bringing home their third medal of the week, Adicoff and Wood put together a steady 10-kilometer race to earn the silver. The duo held onto second place for nearly the entirety of the race and finished in 24:05.1 behind only Zebastian Modin of Sweden.


Adicoff, a four-time Paralympic medalist, was crowned world champion in the cross-country sprint earlier in the week and also has a silver medal in the long distance cross-country. He and Wood have medaled in every world championships cross-country race in which they’ve competed, racking up six worlds medals in the past two seasons.


“It’s been some really tough racing, definitely some fun competition this week, and we’re really happy with how we did,” Adicoff said. “Today was a tough day, we had some really tight skiing out there, it wasn’t really where we wanted to be, but I’m excited to come back out for the relay tomorrow.”


In a tight women’s standing competition, Peterson found speed in the final half kilometer and edged into third place as she crossed the finish line. Milliseconds separated Peterson, Canada’s Natalie Wilkie and Ukraine’s Liudmyla Liashenko through the entire race, and the three athletes frequently traded positions until Wilkie was able to eke ahead in the final kilometer.


Tied to the tenth of a second with Liashenko with less than half a kilometer to go, Peterson picked up the pace and surged to a five-second lead over the Ukrainian. Just 15 seconds separated the silver medal and missing the podium in what ended up being one of the closest races of the competition.


It was the 20-year-old St. Lawrence University skier though, who kept composure to earn her second bronze medal of the competition.


“The 10-kilometer skate is one of my favorite races, so I was pretty excited coming into it, and I’m excited about how it went,” Peterson said. “It was really fun to be on pace with everyone today. We got to ski together a little bit at points throughout the race, which was cool as well. I just really enjoy skiing, I love to ski, and I hope that shows through when I race.”


Seven-time Paralympic medalist Dan Cnossen (Topeka, Kansas) capped his individual world championships slate with a seventh-place finish in the men’s sitting competition. Cnossen finished the 10-kilometer course in 31:20.9, less than a minute out of podium position.


The former Navy SEAL chose to focus solely on cross-country skiing this season, and this week also competed in the cross-country sprint, where he advanced to the men’s sitting semifinals.


Team USA caps the individual portion of the competition with 16 medals, including seven world titles.


Competition in Östersund will conclude tomorrow with the mixed class relays, for which Team USA will field two teams. Follow U.S. Paralympics Nordic Skiing on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter for live updates from Östersund.


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