PYEONGCHANG, SOUTH KOREA - Yoshihiro Nitta won gold in the standing cross-country 10-km classical skiing on Saturday at the Winter Paralympics.
Nitta crossed the finish line at Alpensia Biathlon Centre in a disability-factored time of 24 minutes, 6.8 seconds. Grygorii Vovchynskyi of Ukraine finished 8.7 seconds behind Nitta for silver, while Canada’s Mark Arendz took bronze.
“All I can say is that I’m glad. I’m really happy,” Nitta said. “I’ve been working hard for the past four years, and very glad that everything paid off.”
The 37-year-old won the same event at the 2010 Vancouver Games, but finished without a medal when he competed at the Sochi Games four years ago. In Pyeongchang, he took silver in the standing 1.5-km sprint classical on Wednesday.
“The past four years have been really difficult for me, and I thought a lot about running away,” Nitta said. “But my wife, my children and my coach went through that difficult time with me. I wanted to make them happy.”
Nitta started out without the lead and suffered a fall on the course. However, he pulled himself together and kept the lead for more than 1 km as his family cheered for him from the stands.
The veteran skier said that this gold medal has a significant meaning for him.
“I’ve realized that doing my best will produce great results. The gold just comes with giving the best performance,” Nitta said. “Thirty-seven is still a young age if you are energetic and have things you want to accomplish.”
Japan now has nine medals — three gold, three silver and three bronze — at Pyeongchang and achieved its target of surpassing its six medals won at the 2014 Sochi Games.
Four years ago at Sochi, Alpine sit skiers Akira Kano and Takeshi Suzuki together won all three of Japan’s gold medals. However, they have finished their time in Pyeongchang without a single podium finish after crashing out in Saturday’s slalom.
Taiki Morii remains without a gold medal after his fifth Winter Paralympics. He was fourth in the sitting slalom, 2.46 seconds behind winner Dino Sokolovic of Croatia, who finished in a two-run disability-factored time of 1 minute, 39.82 seconds.
American Tyler Walker and France’s Frederic Francois took silver and bronze, respectively.
Japan’s other cross-country skiers didn’t make the podium on Saturday, including Momoko Dekijima and Yurika Abe, who were 12th and 13th, respectively, in the women’s 7.5-km standing classical. Nonno Nitta was 21st in the women’s sitting 5-km race.