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U.S. Stalwart Oksana Masters Takes Home Gold at Paralympics

Oksana Masters started her Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games campaign on a high with victory in the women’s Biathlon Sitting sprint. She immediately dedicated her success to the people of Ukraine and Team USA.

“I owe a lot to my mom and then it is for Team Ukraine and Ukrainian people. It is as much for Team USA as is for Ukraine. I’m so proud to be Ukrainian, to be American and represent both and that’s the power of sports that you can represent so much more than just one thing,” said a thrilled 32-year-old, who finished the 6km course in 20 minutes and 51.2 seconds with a 100 percent accuracy in two prone shootings.

With her fifth career gold, Masters also swelled her medal tally to 11 overall between Summer and Winter Games. Masters and her fellow American Kendall Gretsch were split on the podium by China’s 20-year-old Shah Yilin. While it was the first-ever Paralympic medal in the event for China, all through defending champion Gretsch skied faster than Yilin, she missed one shot and suffered a one-minute penalty. 

Masters, who may take part in up to seven races over nine days of medal competition in the ongoing Games, had never won the title in Biathlon and hence the victory was all the more special.

“Yes, my first Biathlon gold medal and I never thought I will ever, ever achieve this and hence it is so special. This was my third time around, I played in Sochi and I played PyeongChang and to finally get it in Beijing was special. To share that podium, I think from day one is great, incredible things are coming for U.S.,” said Masters, adding that, the “monkey” is definitely off her back but she wants to go ahead and make sure that this success was no fluke.

“As far as Biathlon is concerned, I just want to shoot well again. It is doesn’t matter about the result but I would like to know that this wasn’t an accident and I can do it again. I’m just so excited,” said Masters, who went on to reveal that her confidence wasn’t that high coming into this event and a lot of that had to do with the way she shot at the Worlds in Lillehammer, Norway.

“My shooting was not good at Lillehammer and I was so nervous coming here because Biathlon is all about confidence in shooting and I think I miss more than I hit. My coaches told me to trust and take the good shot and not think about it. I think that’s exactly what I need to do,” revealed Masters, who was also feeling for the fellow competitors from Russia and Belarus who were forced to withdraw just before the Games due to the ongoing conflict between Russia Ukraine.  

“It is sad and my heart goes out for the Russian and Belarusian athletes. Honestly, I was at the dining hall and one of them came and hugged me and was crying because they wanted to compete,” she said.

“I wish that we are living in a world where every single athlete from every country could represent every part of the world. Come together and brace each other together and participate not against each other but with each other. I wish they were here and I hope for peace really really soon. I can’t wait to race with the Russian athletes and the Belarusian athletes,” she said. 

By N.D. Prashant | For the IPC