Cross-Country Skiing

Oksana Masters wins first Paralympic gold after being told to sit out

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Oksana Masters was told this day would not happen. They told her two weeks ago, when she dislocated her right elbow in Montana. They told her yesterday, when she fell in a race, reinjured her arm and failed to finish.

Yet there was Masters, raising that arm, covered nearly from shoulder to wrist in a black brace, at the finish line of the 1.1km sitting cross-country skiing sprint at the PyeongChang Paralympics on Wednesday.

Masters, who previously earned five combined silver and bronze medals among three sports between the Summer and Winter Paralympics, finally earned her first gold.

“I did not believe this would happen,” she told Lewis Johnson on NBCSN. “I just knew that I wasn’t going to let yesterday be my last race and that’s how I end my Paralympic Games.”

Masters and Andy Soule notched an American sweep of the sitting sprint gold medals Wednesday. The U.S remained atop the medal standings through 53 of 80 events. The Americans have 21 total medals and eight golds, their most in either category since hosting the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games.

Masters, 28, grabbed her first gold in her 12th career Paralympic event at her fourth Games. She rowed at London 2012, cycled at Rio 2016 and competed in biathlon and cross-country skiing at Sochi 2014 and in three previous events in PyeongChang.

“Internally, I kind of knew that I have had four years into this, and I wasn’t going to let an elbow take that away from me,” Masters said, according to PyeongChang 2018.

Masters, skiing with what she called “excruciating” pain, held off German and Russian skiers by 2.1 and 3.7 seconds, respectively, in the four-minute final.

Masters has become one of the world’s most versatile athletes after being born in Ukraine with defects believed to be caused by the Chernobyl disaster and bouncing from orphanage to orphanage for seven years before being adopted by a single mother in New York.

“I cannot wait to put it around my mom’s neck,” she said of the gold medal. “I told her the first gold, it’s hers.”

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MORE: PyeongChang Paralympics TV, streaming schedule

Photo finish decides famed World Cup 50km cross-country race (video)

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The most hallowed World Cup cross-country skiing race — the Holmenkollen 50km in Oslo, Norway — was decided by a photo finish after more than two hours on course Saturday.

Swiss Dario Cologna edged Norwegian Martin Johnsrud Sundby in a lean, both crossing the line in 2 hours, 1 minute, 48.1 seconds.

Cologna, who owns four individual Olympic titles among the last three Winter Games, captured his first Holmenkollen win after runners-up in 2012 and 2015.

“Going to the finish I thought he would be stronger than me,” Cologna said, according to the International Ski Federation. “It is amazing to finally win here. It’s the most important individual competition on the World Cup. I had to wait some years to finally get this victory.”

Sundby, the World Cup overall champion three of the previous four seasons, was trying to become the first man to win three Holmenkollen 50km races.

“Dario has been second a few times only by a few centimetres, so I think it was karma or something that Dario finally got his victory,” Sundby said.

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MORE: Best cross-country skiing moments from PyeongChang Olympics

Teammates react to Diggins’ and Randall’s historic gold

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In case you missed it in the very early hours on Wednesday, Jessie Diggins and Kikkan Randall made history for the United States as they became the first to win an Olympic gold medal – and a medal of any color – in women’s cross-country. This was also the first-ever Olympic gold medal for the United States for a man or woman, and the first medal in the sport for the USA in 42 years.

Randall and Diggins were in the leading pack the entire race when, in the final corner of the last leg, Sweden’s Stina Nilsson attempted to break away from Diggins and Norway’s Maiken Falla. Diggins, the only athlete of the three to not have won an Olympic medal in the women’s individual sprint, out-chased both of her more decorated adversaries to win the women’s relay by half a ski length.

If you’ve watched cross-country during this fortnight, you would realize that perhaps no other competitors are as sunny as Diggins and Randall. Just a couple days ago Diggins took to Instagram with a quote ending in the words “Enjoy it.” No one seemed to enjoy the relay half as much as the face-painted American pair, and it was that enthusiasm that they used to carry themselves over the finish line.

News of Diggins’ and Randall’s historic achievement quickly spread, and cross-country teammate Sadie Bjornsen was one of the first to congratulate the duo.

Fellow cross-country teammate Sophie Caldwell also couldn’t contain her excitement for Diggins and Randall.

Lindsey Vonn, who made her own history on Wednesday evening by becoming the oldest woman to win the downhill, also congratulated the skiers.

Vonn wasn’t the only Olympic medalist to offer her congratulations, though. 2006 gold medalist and former alpine skier Julia Mancuso, as well as 2018 bronze medalist Maia Shibutani also joined in.

Click here to watch Diggins’ and Randall’s historic feat