As part of the first International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Biathlon and Cross-Country Skiing World Championships held in Khanty/Mansiysk, Russia, the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee has announced a regional Programme of public support for athletes participating in the Paralympic Games. The Programme will be known as "Our Champion".
The main objective of the initiative is to promote the Russian Paralympic Team and to improve public recognition for athletes with a disability who live in different regions of our country. The "Our Champion" Programme will enable the residents of different Russian regions to learn more about their fellow-countrymen who have overcome adversity and excelled in reaching the winner's podium at Russian and international sports events.
The first athlete to receive the "Our Champion" title was Aleksey Ashapatov, Paralympic champion and record-breaker at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games and a resident of Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous District. A commemorative certificate was presented to him by Mikhail Terentiev, Paralympic Champion and the General Secretary of the Russian Paralympic Committee.
As part of the "Our Champion" Project, Aleksey Ashapatov met local school pupils from Khanty-Mansiysk. The children were taught about Paralympic Sport and the Sochi 2014 volunteers introduced them to the Mascots for the Games.
Dmitry Chernyshenko, Sochi 2014 President and CEO, said: "During the preparations for the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games in Sochi, we are trying to change the attitude of the Russian public towards people living with a disability.
“The "Our Champion" Project is an exciting way for Russian people to learn about the Paralympic athletes in their country who have achieved real feats on the path to sporting victory. I hope that the "Our Champion" Project will evoke a response in the hearts of all Russians, and that the World Championship itself will be very successful."
Mikhail Terentiev, the General Secretary of the RPC, said: "The World Championship is the best evidence that large international sports events for people living with a disability can be recognized for their success in Russia. I am confident that the whole country will learn from the experience of Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous District and that the Games in Sochi will be a success.
“In particular, I would like to highlight that Khanty-Mansiysk Autonomous District is the first Russian region to support the programme of raising awareness among the Russian population about the Paralympic Games and Values. One of the most important elements of the Programme is the "Our Champion" Project, which embodies the spirit of the Paralympic Movement".
The 2011 IPC Biathlon & Cross Country Skiing World Championships will be held in Khanty-Mansiysk from March 31 to April 10.