A Ukrainian won a gold medal she dedicated to her country, which has been invaded by Russia.
A Ukrainian orphan took silver, meaning she now has won medals for the United States in the winter and summer Paralympics.
A Russian orphan trying to match her U.S. teammate’s feat was fifth.
Such were the fascinating backstories in the 12-kilometer women’s cross-country sit ski race Sunday at the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.
Three-time winter Paralympian Lyudmila Pavlenko of Ukraine finished first in a time of 38 minutes, 54.3 seconds, with 2012 summer Paralympic rowing bronze medalist Oksana Masters of Louisville second in 39:16.
Svetlana Konovalova of Russia was third, with University of Illinois grad and Paralympic track champion Tatyana McFadden of Clarksville, Md., fifth, 1.43 seconds behind the winner.
``I dedicate my medal to the Ukrainian nation and also to the 200th birthday of the famous Ukrainian writer Taras Shevchenko. He wrote about the Ukrainian nation and dreamt about its independence,” Pavlenko said, as reported by the Russian web site r-sport.
Masters, 24, born in Khmelnitsky, Ukraine, had both legs damaged (they eventually would be amputated) by in-utero radiation poisoning linked to the Chernobyl nuclear reactor incident. She was abandoned by her parents, put in several orphanages and adopted at age seven by a Buffalo, N.Y., speech pathologist, Gay Masters.
``It’s pretty amazing; I am in disbelief," Master said, according to a release from the U.S. Paralympic team. ``I have been rowing for 10 years and only skiing for less than a year. I really have to thank my training from rowing.''
Masters made her winter Paralympic debut Saturday, finishing fourth in the 6-kilometer biathlon race. Her medal Sunday was the first by a U.S. woman in Paralympic cross-country skiing since Michele Drolet’s bronze in 1994.
McFadden, born with spina bifida in St. Petersburg, Russia two months before Masters and adopted by Deborah McFadden at age six, has gone on to become one of the most decorated wheelchair racers in history, winning at distances from sprints to marathons.
Like Masters, she has been a Paralympic skier about one year.
Both McFadden’s birth mother and the director of the St. Petersburg orphanage where she had lived joined her adoptive mother to watch Sunday’s race.
“I just raced for my family,” r-sport quoted her as saying.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun