Sir Philip Craven: One Year to Go until Sochi 2014

For the One Year to Go until the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, the IPC President Sir Philip Craven shares his view on the event. 07 Mar 2013 By Sir Philip Craven

This will be Russia’s first home Paralympic Games and I am confident that Sochi 2014 President Dimitry Chernyshenko and his team will be leaving no stone unturned in delivering the best Games they possibly can.

Thursday (7 March) marks one year to go until the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, and having recently attended the 2013 IPC Alpine Skiing World Championships in La Molina, Spain, I have to say I cannot wait for them to start.

This will be Russia’s first home Paralympic Games and I am confident that Sochi 2014 President Dimitry Chernyshenko and his team will be leaving no stone unturned in delivering the best Games they possibly can.

They have a lot of work to undertake between now and 7 March 2014 when the Games begin, and I am sure that the ongoing Test Events will be a significant learning experience for all involved.

As this is Russia’s first Paralympics on home soil, I suspect the national team will go all out to win as many medals as possible. Quite simply they have the potential to be Russia’s most successful team at any sporting event judging by recent results.

In Nordic skiing, they are an absolute superpower. At the World Championships which concluded on Tuesday in Solleftea, Sweden, they won 56 medals and claimed three times as many gold medals as their closest rivals Ukraine.

The likes of Mikhailina Lysova, Roman Petushkov and Nikolay Polukhin were pretty much unbeatable and in Grigory Murygin they have an 18-year-old two-time world champion who may surprise a few in Sochi.

In alpine skiing, Russia are also a force to be reckoned with having won 11 medals, including four gold, to finish third overall behind France and Austria at last week’s World Championships.

Visually impaired skier Alexandra Frantseva and her guide Pavel Zabotin proved a real talented combination in La Molina and, having won three world titles there, the duo will be confident of further success in 2014. Their rivalry with Slovakia’s Henrieta Farkasova, who unfortunately injured herself in Spain, and her guide Natalia Subrtova will certainly be one to look out for next year.

The country also boasts a number of excellent young alpine athletes - none more so than 15-year-old prodigy Alexey Bugaev who won two silver medals in his first World Championships.

Although they finished fifth at the recent World Wheelchair Curling World Championships in Sochi, Russia will still be a real medal threat next year having qualified as the world’s second best team after winning the 2011 world title.

Russia’s ice sledge hockey team are also improving on a daily basis. Having only taken up the sport in 2010, the team won the 2012 World Championships B-Pool and it will be fascinating to see how they fair at April’s World Championships A-Pool in Goyang, Japan.

The only sport where Russia may not be a medal threat in Sochi is in the new alpine discipline of para-snowboard, however I am sure the excitement of this sport making its Games debut will more than make up for this.

History shows that home medal success at a Paralympic Games generates widespread media coverage and Russia should be no different. As shown in London, widespread positive media coverage, positioning medal-winning athletes as role models has the potential to change perceptions, shift attitudes and inspire a generation.

I know my good friend Dimitry Chernyshenko has witnessed such results first hand now at a number of Paralympic Games and he will be determined to repeat such success in Sochi and across Russia. Initiatives such as the Paralympic Awareness Programme and award-winning accessibility map will go some way in delivering this.

Next year’s Games are also set to receive the broadest TV coverage ever. Recent TV deals with UK broadcaster Channel 4 and EBU mean that TV pictures from the Games will be shown in more countries than any other Winter Paralympics.

Whilst celebrating this, it must be remembered that the Winter Games are far smaller than those that take place in the summer.

Whereas London boasted 4,237 athletes from 164 countries competing across 502 medal events in 20 sports, Sochi will feature a maximum of 692 athletes from 45 nations. They will contest 72 medal events in five sports.

The challenge for Sochi 2014 now is not to try and emulate what happened in London six months ago, but to build on the success of Vancouver 2010, the best Winter Games to date.

As with all our events, we have to continue moving forward and making progress. I hope in 12 months time in Sochi I can say afterwards that Russia’s first Paralympic Games helped continue the exponential growth the Paralympic Movement has enjoyed since 1960.

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