Oksana Masters claims USA's first gold of Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games

Paralympic superstar Masters had the best possible start to her Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics, winning gold in the women's sitting sprint biathlon.

By Ken Browne
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

Oksana Masters has had a dream start to her Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics by winning gold in the women's sitting 6km sprint biathlon on Saturday (5 March).

It's a fifth career Paralympic gold medal for Masters and an 11th medal overall, following up on her double gold-medal winning performance in cycling at the Tokyo 2020 Games six months ago.

Masters had a dream race in Zhangjiakou, skiing fast and hitting 100% percent of her shots to take gold with a time of 20:51.2 ahead of China's Shan Yilin (21:06.3) who also hit every single target.

Masters' teammate, defending champion Kendall Gretsch, completing the podium in bronze clocking 21:52.9.

This was Masters' first gold in biathlon after two previous triumphs in cross-country skiing and two in cycling at Tokyo 2020 six months ago.

The 32-year-old was delighted with the result and at hitting every one of her 10 shots on the range.

"I feel on top of the moon right now. I feel absolutely incredible," she said post-race.

"I just realised, I just cleaned my first race of the season and it just so happened to be at the Paralympic Games, which is wild."

"It means the world to me to be able to come here and get my first gold medal in biathlon. In Sochi 2014 I was a medal contender. I went the wrong way and was out of the medals.

"In PyeongChang I didn't get to race healthy, and here, my third time around - it just feels absolutely incredible. To be able to do it all in the city where I first thought about the Paralympics, and to be able to bring home USA gold is incredible."

Oksana Masters: "Unfinished business"

The gold medal puts Masters third on the U.S. women’s career Winter Paralympic medal list with eighth medals.

Alpine skiers Sarah Will and Sarah Billmeier both won an incredible 13, a record which Masters could surpass in Beijing as she could take part in as many as seven events.

Asked what motivated the decorated Paralympian to fight for the gold against the spirited performances of Shan and Gretsch on Saturday she said:

"Unfinished business in PyeongChang. I'm so proud of the way I raced, and I had a great team behind me to help me be as ready as I could be.

"But there's nothing like lining up on the start line, healthy and ready to go, and see where you are."

And what was the secret to her clean shooting?

"I have no idea. I have got to figure it out because there's two more races. I'm not a consistent shooter so I just really try to make sure to take good shots and not rush the process, then just let the skiing be the skiing and the shooting be the shooting."

So what has the transition from cycling at Tokyo 2020 to competing at Beijing 2022 been like?

"It's been so scary to be honest. There's so many days where I second-guess myself, like 'I'm not ready, I'm not ready', and then there's days where I feel good.

"I'm just so happy to be able to represent Team USA in multiple different sports and to be able to bring home gold."

Oksana Masters competing in the sprint sitting para biathlon at Beijing 2022
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

Ukrainian-born Oksana Masters on emotional Games

It's an emotional time for Masters who spent much of her early life in Ukrainian orphanages before she was adopted by Gay Masters in the USA - the woman she calls 'mom'.

After her triumph she posted a message, along with a photo of her at a Ukrainian orphanage as a girl.

On Saturday, she added, "I use sports for me to be able to tell my story and just to show what the human spirit and what the body can do, regardless of every single adversity and setback that's set in front of you. Just to keep pushing through it.

"When you have an incredible team like we do, the US Para Nordic team, behind you, you can achieve your dreams."

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