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Sochi 2014

Marie Bochet

Marie Bochet

Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award nominees for Sochi 2014 announced

Three male and three female athletes nominated for the eighth edition of the award which will be presented at the Closing Ceremony of the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi.

Agitos Paralympic Flame Sochi 2014 The Paralympic Flame burns brightly behind the the symbol of the Paralympic Movement - the Agitos - after the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. © • Getty

Two Russians, two Canadians, an Australian and a Dutch athlete have made the shortlist of nominees for the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award, presented at every Paralympic Games for outstanding performances and overcoming adversity.

Headlining the list for the host nation of the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games are visually impaired skier Mikhalina Lysova and sit-skier Roman Petushkov. The Nordic skiing duo have already picked up a total of seven gold medals in biathlon and cross-country skiing in Sochi, turning almost all of their combined seven silver and bronze medals from Vancouver 2010 golden to add to their clutch of world titles.

Canada also have two outstanding athletes amongst the finalists. Sonja Gaudet is the world’s most decorated wheelchair curler, having won a gold medal as part of the Canadian team at every Paralympic Winter Games since the sport was introduced during Torino 2006.

Multiple reigning world champion and four-time Paralympic gold medalist Brian McKeever just missed out on becoming the first winter athlete to compete in both Olympic and Paralympic Games in Sochi. Undeterred, the visually impaired Nordic skier has gone on to win two cross-country golds in the 1km sprint and 20km with guide Erik Carleton to add to his outstanding achievements since being diagnosed with Stargardt’s disease at the age of just 19.

As the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award moves into it’s eighth edition in Sochi, the new sport of para-snowboard also sees one of its premier and most recognisable athletes amongst the shortlist of nominees.

Bibian Mentel-Spee, was part of the group of riders who campaigned to get the sport included in the Paralympic Winter Games. Mentel-Spee has made history in Sochi by winning the first ever gold medal in snowboard cross on Friday (13 March), following an incredibly successful return to competitive snowboarding after losing her leg to cancer.

Rounding off the shortlist is Australian alpine skier Toby Kane, who was thrown into a key leadership role within the national team after snowboarder teammate Matthew Robinson tragically died following an accident at a competition in February 2014.

Kane, a standing skier, faced an incredibly strong field of athletes to win bronze in the men’s super-combined today (14 March). The 29-year-old is also training to become a doctor as a result of his experiences with healthcare professionals throughout his life, following a car accident at the age of two which resulted in the amputation of his lower-right leg.

The winners of the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award will be announced on Saturday (15 March). The two athletes (one male and one female) will receive the honour at the Closing Ceremony of the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games on Sunday (16 March).

The award was first given at the 1988 Paralympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, and is named after Dr. Whang Youn Dai who devoted her life to the furtherance of the Paralympic Movement.

It is awarded to athletes who best exemplify the spirit of the Games and inspire and excite the world.

Evan Strong leads American sweep in men's snowboard

Evan Strong and Bibian Mentel-Spee claimed the first-ever Paralympic golds in snowboard.

Evan Strong, Mike Shea and Keith Gabel The USA's Mike Shea, left, Evan Strong, centre, and Keith Gabel, celebrate their snowboard medals at Sochi 2014. © • Getty Images
By Nate Williams | For the IPC

"I don’t even feel like my feet are on the ground right now. Today this course is super fun, you can generate lots of speed but it was super challenging and very stressful.”

The USA’s Evan Strong, Mike Shea and Keith Gabel claimed all three medals in the men’s snowboard cross competition on Friday (14 March) at Sochi 2014 to complete an American sweep in the sport’s Paralympic debut.

Strong recorded the fastest time of the day on the course (51.62), as the 2012 world champion and X-Games medallist collected USA’s first gold medal of the Sochi 2014 Paralympics.

“Today is a dream. I’m ecstatic, I’m over the moon," Strong said.

"I don’t even feel like my feet are on the ground right now. Today this course is super fun, you can generate lots of speed but it was super challenging and very stressful.”

Strong was battling for gold with compatriot Shea, who led after the first run with an impressive time of 52.29.

However, Strong stormed back into a commanding lead as he took gold with a combined effort of 1:43.61, with Shea one second behind (1:44.18) to attain a silver medal.

Gabel’s combined time of 1:47.10 was good enough for a bronze medal as the American triple threat completed the podium, with New Zealand’s Carl Murphy finishing fourth (1:49.10)

In the women’s event, Bibian Mentel-Spee won the gold medal to become only just the second-ever Dutch athlete to win gold at a Winter Paralympics.

Prior to Sochi, the Netherlands have only won 10 Winter Paralympic medals, and they have all come from former biathlete and cross-country skier Marjorie van de Bunt.

Now, 41-year-old Mentel-Spee will be known as the first-ever female snowboard Paralympic champion.

Mentel-Spee said she struggled on the first run recording a time of 1:00.18. However, she regrouped and managed to shave two seconds off in her final two runs to grasp the gold medal as she recorded a combined time of 1:57.43.

“The first run was really hard with wobbly turns and it was really hard to ride at first,” said Mentel-Spee.

“In the second and third run, I warmed up to the snow a little bit and I just stepped it up to showcase our sport.”

After the race, Mentel-Spee embraced her son Julian who has not been able to see her for a long time due to his mother’s travels on the snowboard circuit.

“It really is the cherry in the pie,” she said. “It’s been really difficult because my son hasn’t seen me with all the travelling I have to do so it’s wonderful to have him here with me.”

Mentel-Spee was 10 seconds clear of Frenchwoman Cecile Cervellon Hernandez-Ep, who collected silver with a calculated time of 2:07.31

The USA’s Amy Purdy settled for the bronze medal with a time of 2:14.29, and she said she really enjoyed the Paralympic debut of snowboard.

“It's a breath of fresh air to have done it,” said Purdy. “The whole journey has been amazing. Most of us have been here from the very beginning. This is a great debut to show what we're capable of."

Evan Strong, Mike Shea and Keith Gabel

Evan Strong, Mike Shea and Keith Gabel

Paralympic Closing Ceremony to show the impossible is possible

Sochi 2014 will come to a close on Sunday evening with spectacular Closing Ceremony.

The Soch 2014 Closing theme will be Reaching the Impossible The Soch 2014 Closing theme will be Reaching the Impossible © • Sochi 2014
By Sochi 2014

The Closing Ceremony of Russia’s first ever Paralympic Winter Games will take place at the Fisht stadium on Sunday (16 March), illustrating to the world how the Games have proven the seemingly impossible is possible.

The thrilling show is titled “Reaching the Impossible" and will celebrate the magnificent achievements of Paralympic athletes, who have shown the world the impossible is possible through strength of spirit and a relentless pursuit of sporting victory.

Aleksey Chuvashev, a rowing Paralympian and medalist at London 2012 will be a central hero of the Ceremony. Demonstrating the wonders of strength and courage, during a section of the Ceremony, he will climb a rope with only his hands to a height of 15 metres.

The Paralympic Games Closing Ceremony team is led by Head Creative Director Konstantin Ernst and Executive Producer Andrei Nasonovsky, supported by Artistic Director Lida Castelli, Associate Director Doug Jack, and producer of Olympic and Paralympic Games’ Ceremonies Marco Balich.

To the backdrop of the music by Russian composer Alfred Schnittke, the Ceremony will be opened by memorable choreographed pieces performed by members of the Russian Wheelchair Dance Sport Federation together with trapeze artists in distinctive illuminated costumes, who form abstract shapes in the air. This segment is produced by the creative duo of Konstantin Vasiliev, coach of world and European champions in wheelchair dance sport, and Phil Hayes, world-renowned aerial choreographer.

A key theme in the buildup and staging of the Paralympic Winter Games, the Closing Ceremony will once again showcase the principle of inclusiveness in action. Among the top performers on the night will be renowned tenor Jose Carreras, Russian singers Nafset Chenib and Diana Gurtskaya, conductor Aleksey Petrov, pianist Oleg Akkuratov and a dance troupe of 210 Cossacks directed by a choreographer Nikolay Kubar.

Over 460 artists, who for the past months have been working hard rehearsing, will take part in the Closing Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

The performance is filled with impressive music, breathtaking choreography, original view and vivid visual displays.

Jalle Jungnell compares designing wheelchairs to Formula 1

In addition to being a Paralympic wheelchair curler, the Swede is the owner of a wheelchair manufacturing company.

Jalle Jungnell of Sweden Jalle Jungnell of Sweden competes during the wheelchair curling mixed round robin match between Sweden and Finland at the Ice Cube Curling Center on March 8, 2014 in Sochi, Russia © • Getty Images
By Nate Williams | For the IPC

“There are no easy games here and when you play nine games in a round-robin, you will lose some game. No team has ever won 9-0.

Swedish wheelchair curler Jalle Jungnell believes in order to enjoy life, you must try to be as creative as possible.

As well as helping his country win bronze medals at the Torino 2006 and Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, Jungnell is the owner of the wheelchair manufacturing company called Panthera.

Based in Stockholm, Jungnell said that designing and making wheelchairs for Panthera is as difficult as the mechanics behind Formula 1 motor racing.

It’s like Formula 1,” Jungnell said.

“The team that can test the most is the fastest and it’s the same in engineering and making wheelchairs. If you can test and fine-tune what you have, then you can keep making it better.

“In life, things will always be made better than the previous model and it’s always possible. In Formula 1, no matter how fast and how well they drive, next year there will be someone one second faster. It’s the same everywhere and including curling. No matter how good you are, it’s always possible to be better and that’s what drives me and us as a team.”

Jungnell was a keen motorcycle racer before he broke his back in an accident. However, he remained active and played wheelchair basketball, where he went on to represent Sweden at the 1988 Paralympics in Seoul.

After he stopped playing basketball, Jungnell founded Panthera and said that seeing other people use his own products brings him a sense of satisfaction in his life.

“I’m living my dream,” he said. “I played wheelchair basketball before I started to make wheelchairs and it’s fun for me to be allowed to create new things and things that I can use myself. It’s even better seeing people getting an advantage out of using my products and my designs.”

Jungell is also one of 30 athletes involved in the Samsung Paralympic Bloggers project during the Sochi 2014 Paralympics and has been provided the platform to share his journey with fans around the world.

“I think it’s a great project,” he said.

“I am looking forward to giving people an insight on wheelchair curling because I love my sport. I plan to blog about stuff like the condition of the ice, how we use the stones and things like that. Curling has a friendly atmosphere, which is what makes it different from other sports with too much aggression and testosterone involved. I think we have a respect in curling that is rare in other sports. If I can show that in the blog that would be great.”

Although Sweden finished their Sochi 2014 campaign in fifth place, they ended the round-robin session with two big wins, defeating South Korea 13-3 and Norway 11-1 on Thursday (13 March).

“There are no easy games here and when you play nine games in a round-robin, you will lose some game,” Jungnell said. “No team has ever won 9-0.

Proud Paralympian Picture of the day - 12 March

Proud Paralympian Picture of the day - 12 March

What to watch: Day 7 at Sochi 2014

The sixth day of action includes Bibian Mentel-Spee, Evan Strong and Roman Petushkov.

Evan Strong The USA's Evan Strong is the No. 1-ranked snowboarder in the world heading into the 2013-14 season, which will culminate with the discipline's Paralympic Games debut at Sochi 2014. © • Getty Images
By IPC

Snowboard will make its Paralympic Winter Games debut on Day 7 of Sochi 2014.

Morning

One of the headline events of the Sochi 2014 Games, snowboard cross, gets underway as the sport makes its Paralympic debut. The Netherlands’ Bibian Mentel-Spee and the USA’s Evan Strong are both expected to be on the podium, with both of their countries fielding strong delegations in the sport. All eyes are expected to be on the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre in the morning as history is made.

Over in biathlon, Russia’s Roman Petushkov will go for his fifth gold medal of Sochi 2014 in the men’s 15km sitting event.

Afternoon

The super-G portion of the super-combined men’s and women’s events across all classes will take place, featuring the likes of France’s Marie Bochet, Great Britain’s Jade Etherington and Russia’s Alexey Bugaev.

Evening

At the Shayba Arena, Italy and the Czech Republic will battle it out for fifth place in ice sledge hockey. Led by sharp-shooting forward Florian Planker, Italy are guaranteed their best finish ever in the sport at the Paralympic level after coming in eighth at Torino 2006 and seventh at Vancouver 2010.

Italy to battle Czech Republic for fifth place

South Korea and Sweden will play each other for seventh place in the ice sledge hockey tournament.

Zdenek Krupicka Zdenek Krupicka of the Czech Republic celebrates after winning the Ice Sledge Hockey Classification match between Korea and the Czech Republic © • Getty Images
By Ryan McKenna | For the IPC

South Korea will look to pick up a victory against Sweden in the seventh-place game on Friday at 13:00 (MSK).

Italy have said all along that their goal at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games was to finish in fifth place, and on Friday (13 March) they will have a chance to do so when they face the Czech Republic in ice sledge hockey classification action.

The contest, which is slated for 20:00 (MSK), will be the second of two classification games on Day 7 at Shayba Arena.

Italy are coming off a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory over Sweden on Wednesday (11 March), when they launched 34 shots on the net. No matter what the result of Friday’s match against the Czech Republic, it will be Italy’s highest finish at any Paralympic ice sledge hockey tournament.

“Overall I'm happy,” defenceman Gianluca Cavaliere said on Italy’s Sochi 2014 showing. “But obviously there is always room for improvement. We could have done better in the first games."

The Czech Republic defeated South Korea 2-0 in the later classification game on Wednesday when they received a fantastic goaltending performance by Michal Vapenka.

Vapenka made 19 saves to record the shutout and his teammates think that kind of performance is key if they should be successful against Italy.

South Korea will look to pick up a victory against Sweden in the seventh-place game on Friday at 13:00 (MSK).

The South Koreans, who are preparing to host PyeongChang 2018, have not won a game since their Day 1 victory over Russia in a shoot-out but will be looking to finish Sochi 2014 strong.

They will need to produce some offence to do so, having only scored four goals all tournament long.

Min-Su Han has scored two goals while their main offensive threat, Swung-Hwan Jung leads the team with three points.

Sweden are coming off their best game yet, where they had a good mix of offence and great goaltending.

Per Kasperi was the main man for Sweden in Wednesday’s game against Italy, scoring twice. He now is tied for second in tournament goal scoring with three goals and has four points which leads his team.

The last time the two teams met was at the 2013 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey Qualification Tournament when South Korea clipped Sweden 4-2. Jung had a goal and two assists in that game to lead South Korea offensively.

"We have to melt this down,” Sweden’s Per Kasperi said. “We will get together and talk and recharge.”

Zdenek Krupicka

Zdenek Krupicka