Pyeongchang, March 10 (IANS) The United States on Saturday got off to a good start on the opening day of the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, topping the medals tally with three gold, one silver and one bronze medals.
France and the Neutral Paralympic Athletes (NPA) tied for second place with two gold and one silver medals apiece, reports Xinhua news agency.
The NPA refers to Russian para-athletes in PyeongChang as Russians were banned from competing under its national flag for the alleged state-sponsored doping scandal. During the PyeongChang Winter Olympics in February, Russian athletes were allowed under the Olympic Athletes from Russia (OAR) banner.
Ukraine, Canada, Germany, Slovakia, and Switzerland each won a gold on the first day to join the three winter sports powerhouses atop the medal table.
All of Saturday’s medals came from skiing — alpine skiing and biathlon — on which six gold medals were up for grabs respectively.
The US team, the biggest at the Winter Paralympics with 69 athletes, was at the head with unexpected victories of the biathlon combining skiing and shooting. The U.S. duo of Daniel Cnossen and Kendall Gretsch, which had never won a race before, both claimed gold in the sitting event.
Gretsch finished first in the women’s sit ski. Oksana Masters of the United States won silver, beating Lidzia Hrafeyeva of Belarus who took the bronze.
“It’s my first Paralympics, first race, so it’s just a great way to kick off the week and hopefully there is more to come,” Gretsch said.
Cnossen, a former U.S Navy Seal, came first in the men’s sit ski. The silver went to Dzmitry Loban, the husband and coach of Hrafeyeva, making it a double success for Belarus and the family. Collin Cameron of Canada took bronze, which was also unpredicted.
All of the NPA’s gold medals came from biathlon: Ekaterina Rumyantseva taking gold in the women’s standing and Mikhalina Lysova winning the women’s 6km vision impaired event.
France won a gold medal in the men’s 7.5km standing, while Ukraine dominated the vision impaired biathlon event with a gold and a bronze in the men’s 7.5km.
All the six gold medal winners in the alpine skiing event came from different countries. Slovakia’s Henrieta Farkasova won the first gold medal of the PyeongChang Winter Paralympics in the women’s vision impaired downhill event.
France took gold in the women’s standing downhill skiing. The silver and the bronze went to Germany and Canada each.
German skier Anna Schaffelhuber, who had won five gold medals in Sochi four years ago, took a good start, winning a gold in the women’s sitting downhill skiing.
Canada’s first gold of the PyeongChang Paralympics was won by Mac Marcoux, guided by Jack Leitch in the men’s vision impaired downhill skiing.
Switzerland’s Theo Gmur took his first Paralympic gold in the men’s standing skiing, and US skier Andrew Kurka, the reigning downhill world champion, won the race in the men’s sitting category.
The opening competition day offered a couple of surprises to the host country.
Hosts South Korea entertained the crowd in ice sledge hockey group match with a 4-1 victory over Japan. Italy beat Norway 3-2 in the penalty shootout in a nerve-racking opening game.
In wheelchair curling, South Korea made another great start by beating the United States 7-3. The NPA was defeated by Germany 9-4, while Canada won 8-0 over Switzerland.