In a biathlon battle between U.S. Paralympic teammates, the difference between gold and silver came down to fast shooting on the range.
After 10 kilometers of skiing and 20 total shots, it was American Kendall Gretsch who claimed gold in the women’s middle distance biathlon (sitting classification), crossing the line 8.7 seconds (factored time) ahead of teammate and silver medalist Oksana Masters. Germany’s Anja Wicker picked up the bronze.
The result marks Gretsch’s fourth career Paralympic gold medal, and second medal of any color in Beijing after she claimed bronze in biathlon’s sprint event on day one of the 2022 Winter Paralympics. Gretsch, who hails from Downers Grove, Illinois, also won gold in triathlon at last summer’s Tokyo Paralympics.
“I haven’t really been feeling that confident the past couple of races so I didn’t really know what to expect today, but I felt really good all the way through,” Gretsch said in the finish area. “The altitude here and the dry air really gets you, so I’m proud I was able to stay strong throughout the whole race.”
MORE NORDIC SKIING NEWS: Oksana Masters adds to medal haul while first-time Paralympian Sydney Peterson goes 2-for-2
After missing a shot in the first round of shooting, Gretsch shot clean – and fast – for the remainder of the competition.
“I just tried to stay calm, knowing there were a lot more shots to go,” the 29-year-old said. “I was really focussing on every single shot and taking my time today.”
Masters also had a strong showing on the range – shooting clean for a second straight race – though she lost time to Gretsch in the setup for each shot.
“I know I’m not a fast shooter and I’m not a consistently accurate shooter, so I knew I had to just take a good shot and make it count every time. That also means I’m in the range for about a minute at a time, which is where the time went,” Masters said.
“I know on the last stage, you’re not supposed to think about, ‘Don’t miss a shot, don’t miss a shot,’ but I was totally thinking about (not missing a shot).”
Masters, 32, has now won three medals in three events at the 2022 Winter Paralympics.
Both Gretsch and Masters are expected to compete in three more individual Nordic skiing events in Beijing. There are also two relay competitions, though U.S. teams for those races have not yet been announced.
Follow Alex Azzi on Twitter @AlexAzziNBC