October 8 - With less than 150 days to go until the Sochi 2014 Paralympics get underway and with the first event of the season set to take place in December, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has revealed the 12 Nordic skiers to look out for over the coming months.
There are four athletes in each of the three categories - standing, sitting and visually impaired - and between them they have more than 30 Paralympic and world titles in cross country and biathlon disciplines.
Ukrainian Iuliia Batenkova has been identified as one of the medal favourites in Sochi in the women's standing events following her two world title wins at this year's Nordic Skiing World Championships in Sollefteå, Sweden, where she took gold in the biathlon short distance and cross country long distance freestyle.
The 30-year-old will be competing in her third Paralympics and will be looking to secure her first gold following two silver and three bronze medals at Torino 2006 and three silver and a bronze at Vancouver 2010.
Batenkova's compatriot Iryna Bui will also be a medal hope in Sochi after she took the biathlon middle distance title in Sollefteå, while another Ukrainian biathlon middle distance world champion Ihor Reptyukh is a strong medal contender in the men's event.
Canada's Mark Arendz will also be looking to add Paralympic gold to his biathlon short distance world title.
In the sitting events, two more Ukrainian athletes have been identified as medal prospects in the form of world champions Olena Iurkovska and Grigory Murygin.
Iurkovska, 29, took women's biathlon short distance and middle distance honours in Sweden, while 18-year-old Murygin announced his arrival on the world stage with victory in the biathlon short distance World Championship event.
Kozo Kubo of Japan also made an impression in Sollefteå, with victory in the men's biathlon long distance, which formed part of his best ever showing in an international season as he ended it on top of the biathlon world rankings list.
Russian veteran Roman Petushkov, will be looking to improve on his silver and bronze medals from Vancouver 2010 when he competes on home soil in Sochi next year, and he will be full of confidence after claiming four individual gold medals at the World Championships in biathlon middle distance and cross country sprint classic, middle distance classic and long distance classic.
Meanwhile, in the visually impaired categories, Russian athletes are set to dominate also, according to the IPC.
Nikolay Polukhin heads the strong Russian contingent and the Paralympic champion looks tough to beat in Sochi if his form at this year's World Championships is anything to go by after he took top honours in the men's cross country middle distance classic race and biathlon long, middle and short distance events in Sollefteå.
Another man who performed to his usual high standards at this year's World Championships was seven-time Paralympic champion Brian McKeever of Canada who picked up cross country long distance freestyle and cross country sprint classic titles.
In the women's visually impaired classes, Russian six-time world champion Elena Remizova will be hoping to bag her first Paralympic medal next year, to build on her cross country long distance freestyle win in Sollefteå, while teammate and Paralympic relay champion Mikhalina Lysova will be rightly considered as one the stars of next year's Games after winning five world titles this year in the biathlon short, middle and long distances and cross country sprint classic and middle distance freestyle events.
Prior to Sochi, the IPC 2013-2014 Nordic Skiing season will see skiers taking part in six World Cup events which will determine qualification for next year's Games, in cross country and biathlon disciplines.
The first of these takes place in Canmore, Canada from December 9 until 17, the second in Vuokatti, Finland from January 8 to 12 and the third event will see the cross country competition staged in Oberstdorf, Germany from January 16 to 19, while the biathlon competition takes place from January 23 to 26 in Oberried, also in Germany.
The US Nordic Skiing National Championships also take place in January at Soldier Hollow from January 2 to 8.
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