Another day, another medal for U.S. powerhouse Oksana Masters, who captured her fourth medal in her fourth event at the 2022 Winter Paralympic Games with a silver in the women’s cross-country sprint sitting classification on Wednesday. Five days into the Games, Masters is responsible for nearly a third of Team USA’s total medal count.
But the 32-year-old isn’t just representing the U.S. in Beijing.
The 32-year-old Masters, who was born in Ukraine and grew up in the U.S., said it’s hard not to race at full force under the weight of the current state of conflict in her birth country.
“It hurts my heart and it’s very hard to race 100 percent,” said Masters, who finished with a time of 3:19.9, coming up just +1.7 behind winner Yang Hongqiong of China. Fellow Chinese athlete Li Panpan took bronze with a time of 3:31.0.
“That’s why I just dug deep today, not just for team USA, but also for Ukraine, where I am from,” she said. “I really wanted to bring home gold in the sprint.”
Masters, who is competing in her sixth Paralympic Games, now owns 14 medals (five gold, six silver, three bronze), with nine of those coming at three Winter Paralympics.
“I had put a lot of work into this, but … I am so proud because at the end of the day, I get to rest my head at night proud of my silver medal – honest, pure and clean, and I’m just so happy.”
The gold medal marked the second for 32-year-old first-time Paralympian Yang, who also won the women’s cross-country long distance sitting event on Sunday.
“Winning or losing depends on even a few seconds,” said Yang regarding edging Masters for the second time in Beijing. “During the race, I didn’t care whether my opponents were catching up. No matter what sound I heard, no matter whether it was far or near, I was keeping my own pace.”
Tracking Oksana Masters’ success at the 2022 Winter Paralympics in Beijing:
- Day 1: Gold in biathlon’s sprint event
- Day 2: Silver in cross-country skiing’s long distance race
- Day 4: Silver in biathlon’s middle distance event (finishing behind U.S. teammate Kendall Gretsch)
- Day 5: Silver in cross-country skiing’s sprint event
Para Nordic competition takes a break on Thursday and resumes Friday with the long distance biathlon events for the sitting, standing and visually impaired classifications.
MORE PARALYMPICS COVERAGE: Masters has chance to break U.S. medal record at 2022 Winter Paralympics
First-time Paralympian Sydney Peterson records second straight podium finish
American teammate and first-time Paralympian Sydney Peterson won her second medal in two races, a bronze in women’s sprint standing race.
For 20-year-old Peterson, who competes collegiately for Saint Lawrence, winning bronze in the women’s sprint standing was a bit of a surprise after she finished with a time of 4:12.1. Canada’s Natalie Wilke won gold with a time of 4:05.1, while Norway’s Vilde Nilsen claimed silver in 4:08.1.
“It was a super challenging race,” Peterson said via TeamUSA.com. “Lots of components going into it throughout the day, but I’m super excited about how it stacked up. I had a ton of people that were out there helping and cheering, and it wouldn’t have been possible without all their support.”
The victory marked the second para cross-country gold for Wilke, who also won the women’s long distance classical technique (standing) on Monday when Peterson captured the silver.
“I don’t want to sound too confident, but I was fairly sure I had a good chance of winning a medal today and it was just a matter of deciding the color,” said Wilke, who noted that Monday’s win boosted her confidence. “I just thought to myself, ‘This is going to take you like five seconds to get to the finish chute, just hammer it, you’re not going to regret it.’
“I’m not regretting this at all.”
Nilsen admitted to feeling disappointment after coming up shy of winning gold again: The 21-year-old Norwegian earned silver in the sprint event in PyeongChang and thought she was headed toward a different outcome in Beijing.
“It’s a little bit mixed feelings,” said Nilsen. “I was really hoping for a gold medal in the middle of the race. I thought I had it in my pocket, but the same as in PyeongChang 2018, someone was coming up to me next to the finish line and it’s a little bit sad.”