The 2014 Sochi Paralympics

The Paralympic Winter Games open today in Sochi. They run from March 7 – 16, with 575 athletes from 45 nations participating. The events are alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, sledge ice hockey, and wheelchair curling. Canada has sent 54 athletes (including five guides for the visually impaired) and will compete in every sport.

In 2010, several friends and family joined us to watch some Paralympic events in Vancouver and Whistler. Unlike the Olympics itself, tickets for the Paralympics were inexpensive and easy to secure, even for the opening ceremonies and the gold and bronze medal sledge ice hockey games. I remember being struck by the many families and young people present. The medal ceremonies, held each evening in the open air plaza at Whistler, were free of charge, and gave us all the feeling that we were at one with the athletes. I wonder if average Russians will have the same opportunity to attend the events and feel the same camaraderie in Sochi. I hope so.

The 2010 statistics will put the current Paralympics into context. That year, 506 athletes competed from 44 nations in 64 events. In number of medals, Russia came first with 38 medals, Germany second with 34, Canada third with 19, Ukraine fourth with 19, and the United States fifth with 13. Germany won 13 gold medals, Russia 12 and Canada 10. These were spectacular results. Canada’s goal this time around is to place in the top three count, as they did in Vancouver.

There will be 65 hours of broadcast coverage, and up to 350 hours of digital streaming of the games on CBC, Sportsnet, Accessible Media Inc. and Yahoo Canada Sports. The Sochi Paralympics webpage sets out the schedule of events, shows participating athletes (including photos of the Canadian team), and lists the official results. The CBC website has an on-line schedule of their television coverage.  I encourage you to catch some or all of these events. Paralympian athletes in action affirm their abilities and determination, are awesome in their talent, and inspire us all.

These photos show some highlights the 2010 games. New Zealand skier, Adam Hall, did his two gold-medal slalom runs with an amazing time of 1:45:40. Canadian skier, Lauren Woolstencroft, won five gold medals in alpine skiing events and, in doing so, set a record for the most gold medals won by any winter paralympian in a single games. Cross-country skier, Brian McKeever, won two gold medals in cross-country skiing (visually impaired). In men’s sledge ice hockey, Norway beat Canada 2 – 1 to win the bronze medal, and the United States beat Japan 2 – 0 for the gold. Watch to see what happens this time around.

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