No 12: Mikhalina Lysova and Roman Petushkov's perfect ten

Russian Nordic Skiers Mikhalina Lysova and Roman Petushkov showed their incredible medal potential at the 2013 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships in Solleftea, Sweden.

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The Russian Nordic skiing team had a great year in 2013, emerging as they did as the dominant force at the IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships in Solleftea, Sweden, exactly 12 months before their home Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi.

Leading the team to greatness in Solleftea were the two biggest medallists – Mikhalina Lysova and Roman Petushkov – who each collected five gold medals a piece over the eight days of action in the Swedish mountains.

Some may say that the near clean sweep by Lysova and Petushkov – only dropping two individual gold medals out of a potential 12 – was luck. Most others would say it is a sign of their complete expertise and brilliance in both cross-country and biathlon disciplines that will make their country proud in Sochi in March 2014.

However, whilst their team mates collected a fair number of gold, silver and bronze medals for themselves, it was Lysova’s and Petushkov’s performance that stood out as the most memorable aspect of the 2013 World Championships.

Lysova, now just 21, won five individual gold medals, sweeping all of the visually impaired titles on offer in biathlon with guide Alexey Ivanov, and all but one cross-country title, only missing out on the long distance to two more Russians, Elena Remizova and Iuliia Budaleeva to finish with a bronze.

This was followed up by two further wins at the 2013 IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup Finals, where Lysova added cross-country sprint and biathlon short distance golds to her bulging medal haul for the 2012-13 season.

Worryingly for her competitors the course was the Laura Cross-Country and Biathlon Centre and acted at a Test Event for Sochi 2014.

Lysova made her incredible debut at the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. Then, at the age of 18, she won five medals, one gold, two silver and two bronze again across cross-country and biathlon.

Her upward form continued a year later at the 2011 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships in Khanty-Mansiysk, Russia, where she became World Champion in the cross-country sprint and biathlon long and short distances and won team open relay gold.

Lysova’s ambition to ‘win as many gold medals as possible’ at Sochi is sure to see her enter Russian sporting history as one of the greatest athletes the country has ever seen, and is why she has been named as an International Paralympic Committee Ones to Watch.

Petushkov meanwhile has had an altogether more steady rise to prominence in Nordic Skiing.

He began his international career at an IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup in 2007, the same year as Lysova. At his first Paralympic Winter Games he came away with two medals; a silver and bronze in the middle distance biathlon and long distance cross-country sitting events in Vancouver.

Later, like Lysova, the 32 year-old Petushkov entered his home World Championships in Khanty-Mansiysk, and won his first world title in the short distance biathlon.

Petushkov’s and Lysova’s careers to this point have almost been a mirror image of each other, with both winning five medals a piece in Solleftea.

Petushkov finished marginally behind Lysova in the medal stakes in Sweden, achieving one open team relay gold in addition to his four individual titles in all cross-country distances and middle distance biathlon. For this he was voted IPC Athlete of the Month for February 2012 and March 2013.

Russia have consistently finished in the top five in every Paralympic Winter Games they have entered, peaking in Torino in 2006 with first place in the medals table. In Vancouver, the country finished second behind Germany with 12 golds, 16 silver and 10 bronze.

The Russian public can certainly look towards enjoying a few more golds from their Nordic skiers in March.