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Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games


With only days to go until the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games in Vancouver and Whistler, the countdown is on. On March 12, 2010, over 600 athletes from 44 countries will gather for the opening ceremonies at BC Place to begin nine days of intense competition in Para-Alpine skiing, Para-Nordic skiing, sledge hockey, and wheelchair curling. Paralympic Team Canada will be 55 athletes strong and are currently top contenders in the world they are preparing to impress. The excitement will not be reserved for spectators in Vancouver and Whistler. With national television coverage of a Paralympic Games for the first time in Canada, spectators across the country will get to share in the excitement and pride as Canadian Paralympic Athletes go for gold.

Para-Alpine Skiing: The five events in Para-Alpine skiing — downhill, super-G, super combined, giant slalom, and slalom — are contested by athletes in standing, sitting and visually impaired classes, with medals awarded for each.

Standing skiers include amputees who ski with prosthetics, or on one leg using outriggers for balance. Skiers with visual impairments ski with a guide who communicates with them on a two-way radio. Sit-skiers race on a mono-ski using outriggers for balance.

Canada is currently the top Para-Alpine skiing nation in the world, and veterans Lauren Woolstencroft and Chris Williamson are expected to be joined by rookies Josh Dueck and Viviane Forest in giving medal-winning performances.

Para-Nordic Skiing: Para-Nordic skiing includes biathlon and cross-country, and similar to Para-Alpine skiing, there are standing, sitting and visually impaired classes. Biathlon combines cross-country skiing with rifle shooting. In short-distance races, athletes race around a 2.5km-loop, stopping twice to take five shots at a target that is 10 metres away. Athletes who miss the target have to ski a 150-metre penalty loop. Long-distance races have skiers taking five trips around the loop, this time stopping four times to shoot. A one-minute penalty is added to the athlete’s time for every missed shot. Visually impaired athletes compete using an electronic system that provides acoustic signals to guide them to the target.

Cross-country skiing includes relay, sprint, 10-km and 15-km races, as well as a 5-km event for women and 20-km event for men. Skiers compete in classic discipline and free technique events. In the classic discipline, skis must move in parallel in man-made tracks, while in the free technique, athletes push off with the edge of their skis to propel themselves forward. Standing skiers and those with visual impairments use the same equipment as able-bodied skiers. Visually impaired skiers use a guide similar to alpine racers. Sit-skiers race in a sit-ski or a sledge, propelling themselves with their arms.

Canadians are set to make history in cross-country skiing in 2010. Sit-skier Colette Bourgonje will be competing in her ninth Paralympic Games, and Brian McKeever, who has less than 10 per cent vision, hopes to be the first athlete to ever compete in an Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games in the same year.

Sledge Hockey: The fast-paced and physical sport of sledge hockey, with the same rules as ice hockey, is sure to be a fan favourite. Athletes sit in a sledge balanced on two blades and propel themselves across the ice using hockey sticks with picks on one end and a curved hockey blade on the other. Canada is the reigning Paralympic champion in sledge hockey, and will be defending its title against seven other teams, including a fiercely competitive Team USA.

Wheelchair Curling: Vancouver will be only the second Paralympic Games to include wheelchair curling. Teams compete in a match of eight ends, alternating to “throw” (slide) 19.1-kg stones towards a target of concentric rings. The goal is to get as many rocks as close to the centre of the rings as possible without the assistance of sweeping. This demands that athletes “throw” with absolute precision. Canadians are currently the reigning Paralympic and World Champions in this sport.

Canadian Paralympic Committe,


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