Kendall Gretsch wins para biathlon gold six months after Tokyo triathlon glory as Oksana Masters claims silver

It was a USA 1-2 in the 10km sitting biathlon with Gretsch winning her first title in Beijing ahead of Masters and Germany's 'Biathlon Queen' Anja Wicker.

By Ken Browne
Para Nordic Skiing
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

Kendall Gretsch proved what an amazing athlete she is once more by winning gold in the 10km sitting biathlon event at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games on Tuesday (8 March).

The gold medal win comes just over six months after her thrilling Tokyo 2020 triathlon gold, and this one was just as exciting.

Pushed all the way by American teammate Oksana Masters who made all 20 shots, Gretsch took gold by 8.7 seconds despite missing a couple of targets.

Germany's Anja Wicker was third, over two and a half minutes off the pace.

"I'm so excited about today's race," Gretsch said post-race, "I'm so happy to be sharing the podium today with my teammate Oksana and Anya from Germany. We call her the 'Biathlon Queen' so it's fun to be on the medal stand with them."

This was the 29-year-old's first gold in Beijing after two at PyeongChang 2018 and that Tokyo triathlon success.

It was far from a comfortable win with Gretsch keeping one eye on Masters throughout the race.

"I've skied so many times with Oksana and I know she can really turn it on in the last lap. You have to push her every second.

"She's so strong. I just tried to hold it together on the last lap."

Oksana Masters: "I'm so proud of myself"

For Masters, a silver medal is a huge triumph in a race which brought back painful memories from four years ago.

"I'm so proud of myself. I was thinking on my last lap into the finish, 'This is the exact same race in PyeongChang in 2018 that I fell and re-injured my elbow and had to drop out.'

"Leading into the Games in PyeongChang, I didn't get to race 100 per cent healthy with a broken elbow.

"I had to drop out of the race and my coach carried me off. It's actually incredible to be able to line up in this race again with clean shooting, and be on the podium with my teammate.

"It's going to be an incredible podium. I've got my teammate Kendall on top and an incredible athlete, Anja Wicker - she's been my influence in biathlon.

"She is solid. She's who I embody, she's the queen of biathlon. I'm so happy to share this with Team USA and Germany on the podium.

"It's so much better to be on the podium with your teammate, especially with Kendall, especially in biathlon."

Gretsch and Masters: Record chasing

Both Gretsch and Masters are on the trail of records in Beijing.

The U.S. duo already shared the podium in the women's sitting sprint biathlon on Day 1 and were close to another double act when Masters took silver in the cross-country skiing long distance, Gretsch just missing out in fourth.

The USA record at a single Winter Paralympics is Dan Cnossen's six medals across biathlon and cross-country skiing at PyeongChang 2018, and Masters is already halfway there with her three podium finishes in Beijing.

She has three individual events plus a relay to come, the same as Gretsch who has a chance to match Cnossen's six.

Masters is also closing in on the American record for career Winter Paralympic medals.

That currently stands at 13 and is jointly-held by para alpine skiers Sarah Billmeier and Sarah Will who both competed at four Paralympics Winter Games from 1992-2002.

Masters is up to 10 - in addition to her three Summer Games medals - meaning podium finishes in all four remaining events would see her break both single Games and all-time Winter Paralympic records.

Kendall Gretsch: "Try everything!"

Gretsch did not dwell for too long on her success on Tuesday with the four-time Paralympic gold medallist already looking forward to her next event on Wednesday.

She said, "Tomorrow we have the cross-country sprint race. It's always exciting and you never know what's going to happen in sprint. It's head-to-head racing so it's really fun to watch, then after that we have two more races."

Asked what her advice to young athletes is, Gretsch told Olympics.com: "Try everything you can and look for something that you love, don't be afraid to try something and if you don't like it then try something else."

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