Finland proved the outstanding nation in the first showdown of the 2016 World University Championships (WUC) with two gold medals, five silver medals and five bronze medals. Both Bulgaria and Norway were tied in second place with three medals apiece.
Stand-out performances came from Bulgaria's Stanimir Belomazhev, who won three gold medals, and Finland's Sonja Morsky, whose tally of four medals included one gold, one silver and two bronze. In total, 13 athletes from six countries won medals over the four days of action.
Morsky's gold medal came in the opening event of the Championships - the women's sprint. The 24-year-old pharmacy student at the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio beat compatriot Mira Kaskinen and Estonia's Daisy Kudre for the top prize.
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Belomazhev opened up his golden account with victory in the men's sprint ahead of Yury Yazykou of Belarus and Finland's Tuomas Kotro.
A fresh layer of snow and cold, windy conditions changed the dynamic for the second day of action - although there was no stopping 27-year-old Belomazhev, who prevailed once again in the pursuit ahead of Finnish duo Tero Linnainmaa and Jyri Uusitalo.
The women's pursuit gold was won by Anna Ulvensoen of Norway ahead of another Finnish duo, Sanna Pusa and the ubiquitous Morsky.
Norway won the mixed relay on day three through Jorgen Haugen Madslien and Ulvensoen - both students at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. Linnainma and Morsky secured the silver medal for Finland while Russian pair Aleksandr Zlobin and Natalia Ignatova delighted the home crowd with a bronze medal - Russia's first of the Championships.
The fourth and final day of competition at the 2016 FISU World University Ski Orienteering Championship featured the men's and women's mass start event. The irrepressible Belomazhev picked up his third gold medal of the Championships with victory ahead of Finland's Uusitalo and Linnainmaa in the 8.6km race.
The women's 6.9km race was won by Finland's Kaskinen (University of Turku) ahead of Ulvensoen of Norway and Finland's Morsky.
"It is wonderful that ski orienteering is now a part of student sport. I hope and I am sure that it will soon be in the Winter Olympics programme," Morsky said after securing her fourth medal of the Games.
Man-of-the-moment Belomazhev was equally bullish about his sport's chance of becoming recognised by the Winter Olympic committee.
"This is a very important step towards the future development of our sport. I hope, one day it will be a part of the Winter Olympic Games," said Belomazhev, a student at the G.S. Rakovski Military Academy in Sofia.
"It is extremely important to raise awareness and popularity of this sport among the students and to create the atmosphere of friendship and mutual understanding."
FISU International Control Committee member Dmitry Kisilev heaped praise on the host nation and venue after a successful opening weekend to the 2016 WUC programme.
"This was an exceptional Championships and very well organized in Tula," Kisilev said. "This is excellent and shows the commitment and continued support of Russia and its authorities to University Sport.
"The presence of Tula State University, from its rector to the many volunteers present throughout the week proved how important these events are for the region and in fact for the country."
The 2018 FISU World University Ski Orienteering Championship will take place in Tartu (Estonia). In 2019 Ski Orienteering will be part of the Winter Universiade programme for the first time at Krasnoyarsk (Russian Federation).
Speed skating is the next event of the 2016 WUC. It takes place at Basselga di Pine in Italy from 3rd March to 6th March. The Games continue in Italy with the Cross Country Skiing event in Cassino on 12th March before the focus then switches to cycling in Tagaytay in the Philippines from 16th to 20th March.
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