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Alpine Skiing

Toby Kane Sochi

Toby Kane Sochi

Mentel-Spee and Kane win Whang Youn Dai award

The world’s first ever female Paralympic snowboard gold medalist, Bibian Mentel-Spee, and inspirational Australian alpine skier Toby Kane will be presented with the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award at the Closing Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

Bibian Mentel receives her Sochi gold Dutch rider Bibian Mentel receives her Sochi gold medal after becoming the first ever female snowboard champion at a Paralympic Winter Games at Sochi 2014. © • Getty
By IPC

I’m a very proud Paralympian

Snowboarding’s first ever female Paralympic champion, the Netherland’s Bibian Mentel-Spee and Australia’s super-combined bronze medalist Toby Kane, have been named as the winners of the prestigious Whang Youn Dai award for exemplifying the spirit of the Paralympic Games through their performances at Sochi 2014.

The athletes will receive the award during the Closing Ceremony on Sunday (16 March).

Mentel-Spee has been instrumental in getting snowboard into the Games for the first time in Sochi whilst Kane has taken on a key leadership role within the Australian team during several set-backs in the lead-up to Sochi.

Mentel-Spee spoke of her delight at receiving the honour:

“I am overwhelmed with the fact that I have received the award and after winning my gold medal yesterday, this is even better.”

Kane, 27, competes in the men’s standing classification in alpine skiing, which in Sochi has seen one of the most competitive fields ever head out on the slopes of Rosa Khutor:

“I feel very proud to have been nominated by my National Paralympic Committee and I feel very proud and humbled to be nominated for an award about the Paralympic spirit.

“I’m very proud to have gone to three Paralympic Games, I’m a very proud Paralympian and I really believe in sport for people with a disability in terms of what it can show the world.”

Kane and Mentel-Spee were selected from a shortlist of six nominees by an independent panel of judges consisting of International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Governing Board Members Andrew Parsons, Miguel Sagarra and Duane Kale. There were 25 nominations by National Paralympic Committee Presidents and Chef de Missions in total.

Parsons, the Vice President of the IPC, will present each athlete with a gold medal during the Closing Ceremony which has a theme of “reaching the impossible”.

The Whang Youn Dai Award has been presented to one male and one female athlete at every Paralympic Games since Seoul 1988, for overcoming adversity and putting the spirit of the Games into motion.

Bibian Mentel-Spee

Mentel-Spee was a successful able-bodied snowboarder well on her way to qualifying for Salt Lake City 2002 before losing her leg to cancer at the age of 27. Four months after the operation, the 41 year-old was back on her board, becoming Dutch national champion just seven months later.

In addition to her life as an athlete, Mentel-Spee was an integral part of the group of snowboarders who campaigned to include snowboard as a sport at the Paralympic Winter Games. The Dutch rider is also a mother and founder of the Mentelity Foundation which aims to get young people with impairments into sport and has started a snowboard team for athletes between the ages of 14-23.

On Friday 14 March 2014, Mentel-Spee became the first ever female snowboarding gold medalist at a Paralympic Winter Games.

Toby Kane

Kane has been skiing since he was five-years-old following a car accident which led to the amputation of his lower right leg at just the age of two. He was talent spotted at the age of 10 and became a regular in the Australian Paralympic team by 17.

He is studying medicine, following on from his experiences with healthcare in his early life, and is an ambassador for the Australian Paralympic Committee, giving talks and assisting with raising the profile of the Paralympic Movement in Australia.

Since the death of snowboarder teammate Matthew Robinson in February 2014 and other set-backs which have affected the team, Kane has stepped into a key leadership and support role in addition to focusing on his own competition.

Anna Schaffelhuber

Anna Schaffelhuber

Vincent Gauther-Manuel, Mac Marcoux close out their Sochi 2014 races in style

Both the Frenchman and Canadian won the giant slalom races in their respective classes.

Vincent Gauthier-Manuel, alpine skiing world cup France's Vincent Gauthier-Manuel competes in the men's giant slalom standing event during Day 8 of Sochi 2014. © • Getty Images
By Justin A. Rice | For the IPC

"I knew I had to progress to do better. I trained well and it has paid off here at these Games. What is most important, I won a medal. I hope it will attract more people to para-skiing. I hope it will bring a younger generation through."

France’s Vincent Gauthier-Manuel closed out his Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympics in style by taking his first gold at the Rosa Khutor Alpine Centre in the men’s giant slalom standing class on Saturday (15 March).

Gauthier-Manuel, who won bronze in the event four years ago in Vancouver, fended off Russian Alexey Bugaev (2:27.87) with a combined time of 2:25.87 after two runs.

"I was pretty close to falling,” said Gauthier, who had already won silver slalom and bronze in downhill. “But you have to sometimes go close to the edge. I did analyse the course closely in slalom, but then maybe I tried to ski too with too much faith in the first run of the slalom.

"Today I have understood that you need to give it all in the two runs to win.”

After the first run Manuel-Gauthier topped the charts with a time of 1:14.72 while Austria’s Markus Salcher was second with a time of 1:15.95 and Bugaev was third with a time of 1:16.15.

Salcher won bronze with a combined time of 2:28.14.

Nobody was hotter than the 16-year-old Russian, Bugaev, coming into the giant slalom. He won his second gold in as many days on Friday (14 March) by taking the super-combined title a day after winning the men's standing slalom.

"I knew I had to progress to do better,” Gauthier-Manuel said. “I trained well and it has paid off here at these Games. What is most important, I won a medal. I hope it will attract more people to para-skiing. I hope it will bring a younger generation through."

One of the most promising members of that “younger generation” — Canadian Mac Marcoux — also saved his best for last in the men’s visually impaired class.

Guided by Robin Femy, the 16-year-old bested Slovakian Jacob Krako by .35 seconds in the final run to win his first gold medal of the Paralympics with a combined time of 2:29.62.

Marcoux, who won bronze in downhill and super-G, won the giant slalom after failing to finish the super-combined.

"I can't even think right now, I'm so excited,” Marcoux said. “Definitely we didn't expect to come away with three medals. It has been an amazing experience. I will celebrate with my parents.”

He has also been racing without his usual guide — his brother — who pulled out with a back injury just before the start of the Parlympics.

"We've only skied together for two weeks,” Marcoux said of Femy. “We've just spent a lot of time together, learning how to trust each other. … Even though I couldn't ski with my brother, we hung out a bit. He came out to the village every day and we still did the stuff that we normally do."

Krako, who won gold in super-G, clocked a final time 2:31.66 on Saturday while Russia’s Valerii Redkozubov finished third with a time of 2:33.57.

After the first run of the men’s visually impaired giant slalom, Marcoux led the standings with a time of 1:16.02 while Krako was second with a time of 1:18.41 and Jon Maiztegui Santacana of Spain was third with a time of 1:19.61.

Maiztegui Santacana briefly held first place in the final run with a combined time of 2:34.82 before ultimately falling to fourth after being overtaken by Krako and then finally Marcoux.

"This is a dream come true,” Marcoux said. “It is so surreal, I was nervous at the top. I tried to relax and forget about everything, listen to music, because when you think too much it can mess with your head. It is the best moment of my life. I can't even explain how amazing this is."

The giant alpine sitting class closed out the alpine programme on the men’s side with Christoph Kunz of Switzerland (2:32.73) winning gold.

New Zealand’s Corey Peters (2:33.20) took silver and bronze went to Austria Roman Rabl (2:33.31).

Vincent Gauthier-Manuel

Vincent Gauthier-Manuel

Sir Philip hails Sochi 2014 as ‘spectacular showcase of sport’

IPC President has also picked out his favourite moments from the Games ahead of Sunday's Closing Ceremony.

Sir Philip Craven Sir Philip Craven the President of the International Paralympic Committee speaks to the International Paralympic Committee Governing Board prior to the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games © • Getty Images
By IPC

“The Games have been absolutely mind blowing in terms of their impact, far beyond what the Paralympic Movement expected when coming here. They have been a spectacular showcase of sport and the power of the human spirit.

With one and half days to go of Sochi 2014, International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Sir Philip Craven has hailed the Paralympic Winter Games as a ‘spectacular showcase of sport’ and picked out his favourite moments from the Games so far.

So far 61 medal events have taken place in Sochi, with a further 11 to follow, including Saturday’s finals in wheelchair curling and ice sledge hockey which both feature hosts Russia as gold medal contenders.

Sir Philip Craven said: “The Games have been absolutely mind blowing in terms of their impact, far beyond what the Paralympic Movement expected when coming here. They have been a spectacular showcase of sport and the power of the human spirit.

“Not only have the athletic performances been first class, but so has the organisation which has been seamless.

“To sell 316,200 tickets, 86,200 more than Vancouver 2010, not only shows what a great job the Organising Committee has done, but also shows the significant growth in popularity of the Paralympic Movement.

“As London did in 2012 raising the bar higher for Rio 2016, Sochi 2014 really has raised the bar for PyeongChang 2018.

“Rounding off these spectacular Games will be Sunday’s Closing Ceremony which will be an opportunity for the Paralympic Movement to say thank you to everyone involved in making these Games a terrific success.

“The plans sound absolutely fantastic and will be a fitting finale, not just for the Paralympics, but for seven years of tremendous work by the Organising Committee.

President’s highlights

Ahead of the Saturday’s team finals and the last day of competition, Sir Philip has picked out his highlights of the Games so far.

Alpine skiing

“The easy answer for me as a proud Brit would be to choose Kelly Gallagher and Charlotte Evans winning Great Britain’s first ever alpine skiing gold in Monday’s super-G. The debut of para-snowboard was also a very special moment and I look forward to seeing the sport again in PyeongChang 2018.

“However, I’m not sure anything can beat seeing the emotion and sheer delight of the USA’s Stephanie Jallen when she picked up bronze in the women’s super-G standing. The 18-year-old leapt onto the podium, threw down her crutch and brought a tear to the eye of everybody in the crowd. It was an amazing and humbling moment.”

Biathlon

“Roman Petushkov’s gold on the first day of competition in the 7.5km sitting event set him on his way to a record-breaking Games. He’s unbeaten so far and he firmly established himself as a national hero winning six golds from six events. He is a quite remarkable athlete and should he win a seventh gold on Sunday they he will rewrite all the history books.”

Cross-country skiing

“It’s difficult to choose one, so I’m going to have two from the 1km sprint.

Brian McKeever’s recovery after a fall in the first 100m was not just a great moment of these Games but of Paralympic history. He showed immense determination and willpower to pick himself up, battle through the field and win his second gold of the Games and eleventh Paralympic medal.

“Germany’s Andrea Eskau should also be hailed as beacon of fair play for effectively disqualifying herself in the sitting sprint. She finished in bronze medal position, however was unhappy that her own arm hindered her rivals and so gave up her position.”

Ice sledge hockey

“All of Russia’s games qualify as great moments due to the unbelievable atmosphere created by the home support in the Shayba. It’s hard to believe that the team only started five years ago and to reach the final on home ice is spectacular. The best moment though I suspect will be Saturday’s final against the USA which I am delighted will be shown live on NBC in the U.S. I think the Russians will lift the roof off the arena should they win!”

Wheelchair curling

“On Thursday (13 March), Great Britain and USA were both fighting for a semi-final place. Going into the seventh end, Britain trailed 6-2 and looked totally out of it. However, the Brits scored a five to take the lead, before the US tied in the final nail-biting end. Going into the extra end, the pressure was at boiling point, and the Brits were victorious 8-7. Sensational sport.”

Scandinavian countries come together for Sochi 2014 alpine skiing events

Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland are sharing resources to help Paralympic winter sports grow.

Line Damgaard Denmark's Line Damgaard competes in the women's slalom standing on Day 5 of Sochi 2014. © • Getty Images
By Nate Williams | For the IPC

“I think our evaluations will show that it is a good way of working and I know for the Summer Paralympics in Rio, there is an ongoing discussion in one of our sports to do something parallel to this.”

The Paralympics provide a stage for athletes across the world to proudly compete for their country in an international festival of sport. However, the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games has provided another purpose for five countries that are very familiar with each other.

Scandinavian alpine skiers from Sweden, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Iceland have come together and are managed under one team of 10 staff members from each of the five countries.

As well as competing against each other, the Secretary General of Sweden’s National Paralympic Committee, Johan Strid, said it is more important to help each other with common goals to develop in their sport.

“It’s a matter of being smart with resources in order to focus on the right things,” he said.

“We have five small countries in the Nordic region, so in alpine skiing, we have seen an opportunity to work together to get a full team of support to all the Nordic alpine skiers. It’s an effort we like to call “Five Nations One Team” where we all work together.

“We can all focus on the things we are good at in each country and we can all support each other. This way we can make it more efficient so we all save some money that we can use for sports development, which is very important.”

With only nine alpine skiers across the five countries, only three of those nations have collected a combined total of seven medals in history, which is surprising since they are familiar with the winter weather.

Strid said that many members of the newly founded organisation have seen the benefits of their efforts and are looking at the possibility of doing something similar for the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games.

“This is the first time it has been done but so far we are all very positive about this,” he said. “I think our evaluations will show that it is a good way of working and I know for the Summer Paralympics in Rio, there is an ongoing discussion in one of our sports to do something parallel to this.”

“For Sweden, we are surprisingly weak in winter sports,” Strid added.

“We took our first Paralympic gold for 20 years here in Sochi. So for a winter country, we have some work to do.”

Strid expressed the importance of looking to the future and developing more young people into sport, who he said could gain a lot of experience and support from a merger like this one in Sochi.

“I would like to see if we can expand it to the youth so we can create more opportunities for them to exercise and compete,” he said.

“Take sledge hockey for example, where Sweden has two teams and I think Norway has four or five club teams so we are not that many. In order to create enough competition, we should probably organize something together where clubs can compete.

“Since our target group is people with disabilities and by nature, they are a smaller group than able-bodied sports. There are not many countries that have a large enough number within themselves and we definitely do not. We need more and if we co-operate, we can offer athletes a more positive and competitive environment that will make them better.”

Line Damgaard

Line Damgaard

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