Wheelchair Sports Federation | Adaptive Sports Organization
PyeongChang 2018 Closes with the Hope of Moving the World Print E-mail
Written by Candace Cable and Orge Castellano   

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea͢thirty years has passed since South Korea hosted the 1988 Summer Olympics and Paralympic Games, it was the first time both events were held in tandem bringing the Paralympic Games into the global spotlight. A lot of things have changed since that moment, the Games have become a global phenomenon, the 3rd largest sporting event, and it has provided a new light of opportunity to millions of disabled people across the world to play sports. The Paralympics bring billions of spectators every year and break records in every edition. The games have exceeded expectations on all fronts, surpassing previous ticket sales reaching over 320,531, breaking the most tickets sold for a Winter Games edition.

The farewell party didn’t disappoint, and like the opening ceremony it was filled with a good dosage of traditional Korean artistry from music, to poetry, to dancing and phenomenal visual effects. It was a historical timeline combining the ancient and the modern.

asset_SB6_8869_12249_ioc_2018-03-18_154014.jpgA German flag is waved during the Closing Ceremony for The Paralympic Winter Games, PyeongChang, South Korea, Sunday 18th March 2018. PHOTO CREDIT: Simon Bruty for OIS/IOC.

“Tonight is a celebration, a celebration that if you dare to dream, you must do your best to fulfil it.” said International Paralympic Committee president, Andrew Parsons, who charmingly engaged with the audience throwing a couple of sentences in perfect Korean.

The ceremony began with the athletes, flag bearers of each country parading into the arena to join the rest of their teammates. Arariyo, a 600-year-old folk song, stunned the audience with the simplicity and power of its drumming accompanied by a multitude of dancers flowing around the stadium in unison to the music. The highlights of the 10-day journey of joy and sorrow that Paralympians experienced here in Pyeongchang was screened for everyone to enjoy.

asset_SB5_0461_12243_ioc_2018-03-18_154024.jpgArtists perform during the Closing Ceremony of the XII Paralympic Winter Games in the PyeongChang Olympic Stadium. The Paralympic Winter Games, PyeongChang, South Korea, Sunday 18th March 2018. PHOTO CREDIT: Simon Bruty for OIS/IOC.

An essential piece of all closing ceremonies is the revealing of new athletes representatives to the IPC, and the awarding of the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award to two paralympic athletes. This recognition is given in honour of the Dr. Whang Youn Dai, who is an advocate who has devoted her entire life to rehabilitation sport of Korean people with an impairment. This prestigious award represent all the Paralympic values: Determination, Courage, Inspiration and Equality. The award is given to the best athletes who exemplified the spirit of the games, this year it was the turn of New Zealand’s Alpine skier Adam Hall and Finnish Sini Pyy who is a Biathlon and Cross country para athlete

asset_JM1_0669_12357_ioc_2018-03-18_153944.jpgPresentation of the Whang Youn Dai Achievement Award to Adam Hall NZL and Sini Pyy FIN duringduring the Closing Ceremony for The Paralympic Winter Games, PyeongChang, South Korea, Sunday 18th March 2018. PHOTO CREDIT: Joel Marklund for OIS/IOC

The USA for the third consecutive time of the Winter Games came on top of the medal count with 36 medals in total, 13 gold, 15 silver and 8 bronze.

As the ceremony drew to a close, the show gave the world a chance to rejoice in its central theme “We Move the World” an opportunity to see how the winter festival transitions to the blossoming of the spring. It was a sincere moment of reflection, spring, as an element of farewell encouraging the spectators to march towards the world of coexistence. The flowers in full bloom were a symbol representing a new world that has already begun to change.

Declaring the 2018 Paralympics closed, International Paralympic Committee president, Andrew Parsons, said: “Paralympians, you have once again pushed the boundaries of human endeavour. Your logic-defying performances have focused the world not on what holds you back, but on what motivates you and pushes you forward. You have shown that with a strong mind and even stronger heart, you can achieve incredible feats. Ultimately, you have rewritten the theory of everything and given new purpose to possibility”.

The Pyeongchang games gave a new insight to Korea, providing the nation with a fresh perspective on the values of sportsmanship and inclusion that Paralympians bring when they come together. For the organizers, the staff, the regular citizens, and most importantly, the volunteersthe games makersit was a great opportunity to embrace diversity and differences among people.

asset_TL3_9798_12263_ioc_2018-03-18_154039.jpgArtists perform during the Closing Ceremony for The Paralympic Winter Games, PyeongChang, South Korea, Sunday 18th March 2018. PHOTO CREDIT: Thomas Lovelock for OIS/IOC.

“I hope that these Games will serve the purpose as a turning point to realise its core values of courage and determination never to give up under any difficult circumstances whatsoever on one hand, and to make the world much more friendly and humane, without prejudice or discrimination, on the other” said Lee Hee-beom, president of the PyeongChang 2018 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games Organising Committee at his closing message.

A series of stunning fireworks display exploded all over the Olympic Stadium bringing the performance to its climax, officially closing out the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang.

asset_SB6_9237_12571_ioc_2018-03-18_161514.jpgFireworks erupt after the flame was extinguished during the Closing Ceremony for The Paralympic Winter Games, PyeongChang, South Korea, Sunday 18th March 2018. PHOTO CREDIT: Simon Bruty for OIS/IOC.
 
Winter Paralympics Recap Day 9 – Last Day of the Games Print E-mail
Written by Staff   

PYEONGCHANG, South KoreaThe day felt nostalgic as the Traditional Korean Dancers, the “Samulnori” invited the crowds to joyfully welcome the athletes as they entered the last Cross Country race of the Games. Crowds were cheerful and in force and despite the gusty winds they embraced the venue and enjoyed the performances throughout the entire time.

On the final day of competition in Pyeongchang 2018 two races took place at the Alpensia Biathlon Center: The relays, these races are usually the athletes’ favorite event because the focus is not individual but on a team supportive effort, they are relaxed, filled with emotion and adrenaline as the competitions come to an end.

DSC_5147.jpg(From R) US team Andrew Soule, Mia Zutter, Kristina Trygstad-Saari, Grace Miller and Sean Halsted pose after the Cross Country Skiing 4×2.5km Open Relay at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre. PHOTO CREDIT: Ken King

Though, it wasn’t the time for the U.S. Paralympic Nordic Skiing Team, who at the end, and in spite of great results, finished in 7th- and 12th-place respectively in the 4×2.5-kilometer mixed and open relays, World champions, France took the the gold in the open relay, the silver went to the Norwegian team and the Canadians clinched the bronze.

AU7I4893.jpgGrace Miller competes in the Open Relay on Sunday March 18th, 2018.  PHOTO CREDIT: Ken King

And even though, the Ukrainians were penalized in the open relay missing the bronze spot they claimed gold in the mixed race followed by Germany in second place and Japan taking the last place in the podium.

Overall, The American Nordic team concludes the Paralympic Winter Games with a total of 16 medals, six gold, seven silver and three bronze. Of those 16 medals, nine were secured in cross-country races, and seven were from biathlon events.

At the Jeongseon Alpine Centre they saved the best for last. Women’s Slalom racing tested the agility of the top para women skiers today. In the Visually Impaired category Staci Manella and Danelle Umstead finished in 10th and 11th positions after run 1. In the final second run Danelle and husband Rob Umstead unfortunately were disqualified and Staci Manella and guide Sadie de Baun came in 9th. Slovakia’s Henrieta Farkasova reigned supreme with another Gold, her 5th gold in PyeongChang. The Brits Menna Fitzpatrick and Millie Knight took home silver and Bronze.

asset_SB5_9378_11413_ioc_2018-03-18_104912.jpgLaurie Stephens USA competes in the Alpine Skiing Sitting Women’s Slalom at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre. The Paralympic Winter Games, PyeongChang, South Korea, Sunday 18th March 2018.PHOTO CREDIT: Simon Bruty for OIS/IOC.

In the women’s standing category after Run 1 Marie Bochet finished in the top position. Melanie Schwartz came in 12th. Regrettably Ally Kunkel got disqualified and Stephanie Jallen did not finish. After the final second run Melanie Schwartz finished in 11th position and Marie Bochet won Gold for France. Slalom for the sitting category after run 1 saw Laurie Stephens in the 8th spot and after run 2 she closely missed the podium and finished in the 5th spot. It was an action packed day for the Slalom runs for the Ladies out in PyeongChang.  Overall Team USA won 6 medals in Alpine skimming at the PyeongChang Paralympic Games.

asset_SB5_8695_11318_ioc_2018-03-18_105108Danelle Umstead USA with her guide Rob Umstead competing in the Alpine Skiing Visually Impaired Women’s Slalom at the Jeongseon Alpine Centre. The Paralympic Winter Games, PyeongChang, South Korea, Sunday 18th March 2018. PHOTO CREDIT: Simon Bruty for OIS/IOC.

 

America, this is a public notice: when Declan Farmer turns 21 on November 5, 2018, please buy him a round of beer. Lots of them. #16 For the United States Sled Hockey team is being called the best in the game after two remarkable goals to get the comeback victory and the goal medal for Team USA. They defeated the Canadians 2-1 in a tight one. After Steve Cash had his first goal scored on him since Sochi 2014, in Paralympic play, it was Farmer, the Princeton University Student who took Canada to school scoring with 37.8 seconds to tie the game and send it into overtime, he got extra credit in overtime netting the game winner from team Captain Josh Pauls.

When asking about Framer, Pauls said, “He’s the best in the game and it’s his time right now.”

The team held signs that said, “JS”, in reference to their late coach Jeff Sauer, who they dedicated this gold medal run.

 
Paralympics Day 8 Recap: USA Ranks Number One in the Medal Count Print E-mail
Written by Staff   

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea– The crowds were out in full force and the sun was shining as the athletes brought their final individual performances to the stadium competing in the classic technique middle-distance event. Most of the para athletes  who competed today still have one powerful performance to thrill the crowd: the relays on Sunday 18th March. The conditions have been very versatile, one day is cold and snowy and the next day the sun is shining melting the snow.

Jake Adicoff B3 and guide Sawyer Kesselheim led the day in the Men’s Visually Impaired 10km race capturing a silver medal, which is the first of their Paralympic career.

“It was great. We got out here and the skiing was just so good. The skis were maybe the best out there, so it was a big help and the race was just super fun. We started skiing a little bit conservative and then just tried to build throughout the race.” he said.

In the Women’s standing division middle-distance race 7.5km, first-time Paralympian Grace Miller finished her second longest race ever in a place of 18th. When asked about the condition of the course she said “Great race, great snow, sunny and warm, perfect spring scene.”

In the Women’s sit-ski 5km race Oksana claimed her second gold at these games and of her entire ski racing career. She has been voted the honour of carrying the American Flag into the Closing Ceremony of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Paralympic Games on March 18. For the rest of the women sit skiers Kendall Gretsch finished 6th and Joy Rondeau 19th.

asset_TL3_3912_10309_ioc_2018-03-17_111052Joy Rondeau USA competes during the Cross Country Skiing Women’s Sitting 5km at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre. The Paralympic Winter Games, PyeongChang, South Korea, Saturday 17th March 2018. PHOTO CREDIT: Thomas Lovelock for OIS/IOC.

For another newcomer Mia Zutter, who raced in the Women’s 7.5km visually impaired class had another chance to improve her technique and build on the relationship with her guide Kristina Trygstad-Saari

“The more we ski together the better we will be at working together and the closer that we would be able to ski together which is really going to help Mia maximize her race experience” Kristina said.

asset_TL3_8304_10325_ioc_2018-03-17_110135.jpgEui Hyun Sin KOR (L) and Bryan Price USA compete during the Cross Country Skiing Men’s Sitting 7.5km at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre. The Paralympic Winter Games, PyeongChang, South Korea, Saturday 17th March 2018. PHOTO CREDIT: Thomas Lovelock for OIS/IOC.

In Men’s sitting class of the middle-distance cross-country race Dan Cnossen claimed another silver, extending his medal streak of a total of six medals, while the South Korean Eui Hyun Sin he clinched the country’s first Gold medal in Cross Country Skiing.  Andy Soule came in 5th, Sean Halsted in 23rd, and Bryan Price in 26th and rounding it out was Jeremy Wagner in 30th.

BQ7I1081.jpgDan Cnossen competes in the Men’s Middle-distance race 7.5km. PHOTO CREDIT: Shannon Galea

The way that you knew that South Korea would not be going down without a fight was simple, they have Seoul.

South Korea entered the Gangneung Hockey Centre to have their match against Italy with one thing on their mind: not letting their country down. The South Korean faithful were stacked in full force for this one. The team did not disappoint, taking home the Bronze medal the score: 1-0.

It was scoreless into the third period when at the 41:42 mark of the game, when Korea got the game winner from the stick of Dong Shin Jang with the assists from Seung Hwan Jung and Jong Kyung Lee.

asset_JM8_2833_10460_ioc_2018-03-17_101540.jpgThe winning Republic of Korea team pose for a photograph after the Ice Hockey Bronze Medal Game between the Republic of Korea and Italy at the Gangneung Hockey Centre. The Paralympic Winter Games, PyeongChang, South Korea, Saturday 17th March 2018. PHOTO CREDIT: Joel Marklund for OIS/IOC.

Now that the Bronze is out of the way, tomorrow is the gold medal match for Team USA and Team Canada the game is expected to be an ol’ fashioned shootout at noon, similar to the O.K. Corral. The U.S. who have allowed one goal in comparison to the 38 scored, will have Brody Roybal, scorer of 11 of those goals leading them while Canada Captain Greg Westlake, who has said this is his last go around for Team Canada, will lead the team that has not let a goal in compared to the 42 they have scored so far this tournament. It’s going to be a barnburner for sure.

asset_JM8_2687_10445_ioc_2018-03-17_101924.jpgPresident of the Republic of Korea Moon Jae-in talks to Seung Hwan Jung KOR and Dong Shin Jang KOR after Korea’s victory over Italy 1:0 in the Ice Hockey Bronze Medal Game at the Gangneung Hockey Centre. The Paralympic Winter Games, PyeongChang, South Korea, Saturday 17th March 2018. PHOTO CREDIT: Joel Marklund for OIS/IOC.

Norway and China were set to go in the gold medal match, after Norway defeated host country South Korea yesterday. But in the end, they would bow to the Chinese in an extra side (End 9) by the score of 6-5.

In Alpine skiing competitions are down to the last discipline: Slalom. At Jeongseon Alpine center it was a crisp sunny day. Perfect skiing conditions for the technical discipline of Slalom where athletes must take several turns through closely spaced gates.  In the first run Team USA’s Kevin Burton and Guide Brandon Ashby finished in 9th position in the Visually Impaired Category. In the Standing category Jamie Stanton came out victorious on top with 48.51 points just 00.03 points ahead of French competitor Arthur Bauchet. Thomas Walsh came in 5th. For the men’s sitting category Tyler Walker finished strong in second position after Run 1.

Run two takes place on a different course to truly test agility. The course length at the Jeongseon Alpine center is 560 meters long. The winner is the one who has the fastest combined score from both runs.  Kevin Burton got tripped by a gate and unfortunately did not finish in the second run. Gold went to Italian Giacomo Bertagnolli in the Visually Impaired category. Jamie Stanton finished run 2 with a Bronze medal for Team USA.

On winning today Jamie said, “It’s been an awesome 7 years but a tough 7 years. I had to sacrifice a lot but it all paid off today.” For the final run in Men’s sitting the course didn’t work out for Jasmin Bambur and Josh Elliot and they did not finish.

However, the New Hampshire native Tyler Walker took home his second silver medal of the Paralympic Games. Afterwards he said “I never ever thought I would be in this position. It’s amazing. I got all my frustration and emotion out in the Giant slalom and so I could relax a lot more today and just go skiing.”

 
Oksana Masters: The Woman with the Golden Gun Print E-mail
Written by Josh Eisenberg   

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — She’s leaving people in the dust. This is the tale of adapted rowing, para cycling, cross-country skiing and biathlon para-athlete, Oksana Masters. Truth be told, the life of Paralympic stardom almost never happened for her.

The date was April 25, 1986. Three years before her birth, Oksana’s biological mother was living just outside Chernobyl, Ukraine, the home of one of the worst nuclear disasters in the history of man. Oksana’s birth mother was exposed to radiation, and because of it her body chemistry was completely altered.

Danny Chin - Omega Photo StudiosOksana Masters poses for the cameras prior to her Women’s 12km sitting Cross Country Ski event on March 11, 2018. Danny Chin – Omega Photo Studios

Skip ahead to June 19, 1989. Enter into the world Oksana Alexandrovna Bondarchuk. She was born in the Ukraine with several birth defects including webbed fingers and 6 webbed toes on each foot and C-shaped legs. Oksana was left for dead by her mother, only to end up in a Ukrainian orphanage.

At age 7, she was adopted by the woman that she calls mother, Gay Masters, a United States citizen, an educator. At the time, she was living in Buffalo, New York, working at the University of Buffalo. Gay Masters was to become a single mother to the orphaned Oksana. At the age of 13, Oksana, who was suffering from tibial hemimelia at the time due to radiation, had her legs surgically removed  and her hands changed, so they weren’t longer webbed. This gave Oksana a new lease on life.

“I was always a very active child, I thought the word ‘no’ never applied to me.” This was evident in her ventures with sports.

AU7I0737Oksana Masters competing in Biathlon on March 14, 2018 PHOTO CREDIT: Ken King

Shortly before she became an amputee, Oksana picked up the sport of rowing. She was good, or better yet, she was great. As a sculler, she set world records at Crash-B Sprints in 2010. Due to a back injury during the 2012 London Paralympics, where she got a bronze medal in rowing, Masters had to give up the sport. She now focuses her time on Para-Cycling in Summer and Cross Country Skiing in Winter. Just recently, she has picked up Biathlon… and won a silver medal at the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Paralympic Games.  Oksana joked after the ceremony for her silver that potential husband candidates should watch out now that she knows how to shoot a weapon saying,

“Well, my boyfriend, he’s on the nordic team as well, and he cleaned as well, so we push each other really good. He’s a better shooter, but now that I stepped up to his level, yeah… he better start worrying a little bit.”

That silver medal and all the medals she has won in PyeongChang almost did not happen this Paralympic games. As it turns out, two weeks prior to the games, Oksana tore ligaments and partially fractured her elbow, making it very painful to hold a gun, let alone ski cross country style in a competition. She persevered, saying about her arm,

“It’s hanging in there, our U.S. medical staff has done an amazing job. I literally would not be here without them, the team at The Steadman Clinic. They basically fixed my arm in time just in time to get it through.”

Don’t catch her showing off her five medals though, Oksana describes herself as humble stating, “It’s usually my mom or my boyfriend who shows off and tells people about the medals.”

In fact, she doesn’t know where to keep all of her medals now that she is making a collection five in total, with four in PyeongChang: two golds, a silver and a bronze.

Oksana Masters gets goldOksana Masters receiving her gold medal for Cross Country Skiing’s 1.1km Sprint Event on March 11, 2018 PHOTO CREDIT: Danny Chin – Omega Photo Studios

When not placing 4th and 5th for Para-Cycling (which is equally amazing), or Cross Country Skiing, or rowing, she is living in Louisville, Kentucky where her mother now teaches at the University of Louisville.  She lives there with one simple philosophy, which she says on twitter:

“To be irreplaceable, one must always be different.”

Irreplaceable indeed. Team USA for the closing ceremony announced that she will be the flag bearer for the PyeongChang 2018 Games. She had this to say on twitter:

Screen Shot 2018-03-17 at 2.43.59 PM.png

Masters of her domain, a true pioneer in Paralympics and an enigma as a triple threat: Oksana is ready for an encore in Tokyo and Beijing.

BQ7I1151Oksana Masters celebrates her 2nd gold medal after racing in Cross County, March 17, 2018. PHOTO CREDIT: Shannon Galea
 
Mia Zutter is Setting Her Own Pace for Success Print E-mail
Written by Candace Cable   

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea —Mia always wanted to be an athlete, from the moment that she and her sister Natalie were figure skating together, she knew that the freedom of movement that comes from and with the sport was for her. Even after she started having trouble with her vision by the fourth grade and was eventually diagnosed with Stargardt disease, a type of macular degeneration, Mia kept moving – setting her pace as an athlete.

In the seventh grade, when her vision was now, ‘like looking through sea glass’, she stopped figure skating and started running, trusting her sister to be her guide. Her Mother, Jenn said, “Mia is incredibly motivated, incredibly independent, slightly on the stubborn side, if she’s going to do something, she’s going to do it. She made it known early on that she wanted to do it alone, she didn’t want us marching into school meeting her teachers, holding her hand, no she was just going to do and she was going to figure out how to be an advocate for herself, that was 7th grade and in high school, she would inform us, but she took the lead.”

AU7I0397-2.jpgMia’s family ‘The Zutters’ cheering on her sprint race on March 14th. From Left to Right: Jen (Mother), Natalie (Sister) and Mike (father). PHOTO CREDIT: Ken King

Her parents were hands-off, letting her set the pace of how to adapt to this new way of being in the world. Sure Mia needed more support to find her way, but she dictated the terms and they all adjusted to her, not the other way around. Most of disabled people have to spend their lives living as the “only ones”, isolated. The ones that are different than the rest, the ones that are singled out, the only one in the room and they are considered “special”. That’s why Mia’s path, so far is a great metaphor for how inclusion should work for everyone. She lets the people around her know how they can adapt so she can thrive, be independent and successful.

AU7I0211.jpgMia and her guide Kristina hug after the 1.5km Classic Sprint. PHOTO CREDIT: Ken King

It’s evident, when watching these two, Mia and Kristina Trygstad-Saari, that their relationship as skier and guide is based on clear communication, respect, and trust. These values have helped them create an environment that supports their mission of excellence in ski racing and to act as a team. “We work together as a team. I’m relying on her for all the information on the course. I can see a little bit but definitely I’m thinking about the most, is, what is she saying to me, so I can focus more on my technique and not so much worry about where I’m going”. “There’s definitely a lot of trust in that relationship especially when we’re flying down some big hills. I’m so grateful to Kristina – we have a great connection”. Mia revealed with a huge smile.

 

untitled-4194.jpgMia and Kristina ski in the Women’s visually impaired 15km freestyle. PHOTO CREDIT: Ken King

 

This duo’s pace and timing coupled with Mia’s ability to mirror Kristina’s skiing technique create this exhilarating feeling, a certain calmness when one watches Mia cross country ski as if she is someone who has been skiing all their life and not just for two years. It will be a pleasure to watch Mia’s journey as she progresses during next four years. To be adventurous, to grow, to build a sense of identity of self is exactly what Mia is doing.

 

untitled-4137.jpgMia ski in the Women’s visually impaired long-distance freestyle race. PHOTO CREDIT: Ken King
 
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