Wheelchair Sports Federation | Adaptive Sports Organization
Men’s Snowboarding Sweeps Podium, Amy Purdy Takes Bronze Print E-mail
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Written by Eric Gissendanner 
Photos by Ken King

The United States wasted no time in asserting which country would dominate the snowboarding slopes on Friday. Making its Paralympic debut, the snowboard cross event saw a clean sweep by the Americans, as Evan Strong (Maui, Hawaii) took gold, while Mike Shea (Castaic, Calif.) grabbed silver and Keith Gabel (Ogden, Utah) captured bronze. The trio gave the United States its first Paralympic Winter Games sweep since the Salt Lake City Games in 2002. Today also marked the first time in U.S. history that men swept all three podium spots in a single event. The men were not alone, though, as Amy Purdy (Las Vegas, Nev.) sealed up the bronze medal on the women’s side.


Coming into the event, the United States fielded a full team of five men and five women snowboarders. Each athlete takes three solo runs down the hill and each individual’s best-two timed runs determines overall placement.

As the men’s competition progressed, the question was not if the United States would medal, but how many times? On the men’s side, Shea and Strong battled over the top spot. Shea’s first run of 52.29 was the best among the initial runs, but Strong responded by besting his American competitor (and the whole field) with a second run of 51.62. Strong’s second-run posting gave him a 0.01 lead heading into the third and final heat. By comparison, Shea registered a 51.89 second run. Not to be left out, Gabel recorded a first run of 54.02, and then a second run of 53.61.


That all set the suspense for a decisive third heat to crown a champion. Strong continued to impress, clocking in at 51.99, while Shea slipped to a 1:00.27. By far his slowest run of the day, Shea had to rely on his opening two runs, but that was not enough as Strong took the gold by a 0.57 second differential. Meanwhile, Gabel remained third, as he stayed under the 54-second mark in two of his three runs. This trio was joined by Tyler Burdick (Salt Lake City, Utah) who recorded an eighth place finish in 1:52.49, while Daniel Monzo (Glenwood, N.J.) took home 18th in 2:07.52.


On the women’s side, five Americans registered top-10 results. Purdy’s best two runs combined for a 2:14.29 time, while Cristina Albert (Holladay, Utah) clocked in at 2:35.26. Heidi Jo Duce (Winter Park, Col.) was fifth in 2:37.43, Nicole Roundy (Salt Lake City, Utah) came in eighth at 2:59.57, and Megan Harmon (Salt Lake City, Utah)rounded out the top-10 in 3:31.09.


Today’s accolades gave the United States its first gold medal of this year’s Paralympics. The Americans had six silver medals coming into the day until Strong and Shea changed all that.

About the Author: Eric Gissendanner is a member of the Wheelchair Sports Federation media team reporting on events at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia.  The all-volunteer media team consists of professional writers and photographers who are donating their time and expertise to showcase the athleticism of disabled U.S. athletes and highlight their world class achievements in adaptive sports.  Some members of the media team are former Paralympians and wheelchair users/amputees. The Wheelchair Sports Federation is a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for the disabled and wheelchair-bound adults and youth to play sports recreationally and competitively.  For more information, visit www.WheelchairSportsFederation.org.


PHOTO CAPTION:
photo by Ken King
"Michael Shea gets some air during the first ever Paralympic Snowboarding competition."
Last Updated on Sunday, 16 March 2014 21:26
 
Spectators Gain Heartfelt Experiences During the Paralympics in Sochi Print E-mail
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by Matthew Gephart

photos by Katie Harris


SOCHI, Russia - Spectators were given the chance outside the Curling Centre and inside the Shabaya Center this week to see what it was like to participate in the Sled Hockey and Wheelchair Curling competitions.  This was a very popular spot to stop while spending time at the Olympic Park and allows the chance for some education about what it is like to participate in such events.

 

It is important to make sure that young spectators can experience the perseverance and determination it takes to compete in the sports happening in Sochi this year, especially when the ability to complete daily tasks can be taken for granted by those without physical  impairments.  

A small goal and Sled were available for participants to literally take a seat into the life of a Sled Hockey player and get a feel for shooting and just the balance needed alone.  Many have enjoyed the experience and take it to heart while being able to feel such quarrels these Olympians face every day.  

On the opposite side, participants were able to feel the stones weight as it slides along a mock ice sheet with targets like the house on a real sheet in the Curling Centre.  Many participants found it difficult to place the stones in the center of the house closest to the button, while some were successful after their first and second throws becoming more comfortable with the curl of the stones.  

Many folks left happy and excited having had the chance to share the experiences with Olympians during the 2014 Paralympics in Sochi, Russia.


About the Author: Matthew Gephart is a member of the Wheelchair Sports Federation media team reporting on events at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia.  The all-volunteer media team consists of professional writers and photographers who are donating their time and expertise to showcase the athleticism of disabled U.S. athletes and highlight their world class achievements in adaptive sports.  Some members of the media team are former Paralympians and wheelchair users/amputees. The Wheelchair Sports Federation is a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for the disabled and wheelchair-bound adults and youth to play sports recreationally and competitively.  For more information, visit www.WheelchairSportsFederation.org.

PHOTO CAPTION:
Photo by Katie Harris
"Spectators were given the chance outside the Curling Centre and inside the Shabaya Center this week to see what it was like to participate in the Sled Hockey and Wheelchair Curling competitions."
Last Updated on Saturday, 15 March 2014 16:50
 
USA Sled Hockey Goes for Gold against Russia on NBC 3-15-2014 at 1 pm Print E-mail
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USA to Defend Their Gold Medal Against Russia
by Eric Gissendanner
Photo by Ken King

SOCHI —The United States sled hockey overcame its first major hurdle —soundly beating Canada, 3-0. The Americans now play in a not-so-surprising gold medal game, but against a surprising opponent: Russia. When the United States and Russia take to the iceSaturday at noon Eastern Time, both teams will be met by a thunderous hometown crowd.


America seeks its third gold medal in 12 years, while Russia has never medaled (this is Russia's first time having a sled hockey team in the Paralympics). America’s average player age is 24.1 years-old, while Russia’s is 29.5 years-old. Both teams are 3-2 in the Paralympic tournament so far, and both teams shutout their semifinal opponent to reach the gold medal game.


Throw out all the numbers, though, and focus on the fact that it is the United States against Russia. We are past the Cold War and the Miracle on Ice is now 34 years ago. Regardless of what was, the hype now surrounds what is. Saturday is for the gold in the premiere event of the Winter Paralympics. The host nation battles a foe that seeks to defend its Vancouver dominance en route to the top podium spot.


Whether it is out of passion or curiosity toward the sport, watch Saturday’s game. Months of preparation build up to a final 45 minutes to determine which team and which country chose the right players, set the right lines and executed the right plays needed for the title as the world’s best. 

Schedules for viewing the last events of the 2014 Winter Paralympics are as follows:

Saturday March 15, 2014
Ice Sled Hockey Gold Medal Game on NBC 1:00 PM - 3: PM Eastern (Taped) - USA v Russia
Cross Country Skiing on NBCSN at 3:30 AM - 5:30 AM Eastern (Live)
Wheelchair Curling Final on NBCSN at 6:30 PM - 9:00 PM Eastern (Taped)

Sunday March 16, 2014
Alpine Skiing (Giant Slalom) NBCSN 4:30A - 6:30A (Live)
Closing Ceremony NBCSN 3:30P - 5:30P (Taped)

More information on the viewing schedule can be found here:

About the Author: Eric Gissendanner is a member of the Wheelchair Sports Federation media team reporting on events at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia.  The all-volunteer media team consists of professional writers and photographers who are donating their time and expertise to showcase the athleticism of disabled U.S. athletes and highlight their world class achievements in adaptive sports.  Some members of the media team are former Paralympians and wheelchair users/amputees. The Wheelchair Sports Federation is a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for the disabled and wheelchair-bound adults and youth to play sports recreationally and competitively.  For more information, visitwww.WheelchairSportsFederation.org.

PHOTO CAPTION:
by Ken King
"Farmer Goes After the Puck to Defeat Canada"
Last Updated on Sunday, 16 March 2014 22:01
 
Sochi Paralympics for Day 6 Print E-mail
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Sled Hockey Advances, Curling Ends Season Strong
Written By Brian Rank
Photos by Ken King

 

SOCHI, Russia – Team USA dominated Canada in a play-off shutout on Thursday, continuing to the final Saturday. Wheelchair curling saw their Games end with a loss to Great Britain and US alpine had a strong fourth-place finish in the visually impaired slalom.


Below are recaps from the day’s events.    


Wheelchair Curling

In a close game that resulted in a tie at the 8th end, Great Britain was defeated team USA in a overtime end 8-7. The US looked like it would carry the game unitil GB smashed into play with  five points in the fifth end, leading to a tie at the end of the match. The tie-breaking win by GB pushed the play-offs out of reach for team USA after China won their game against Great Britain, placing China in the semi-finals along with Canada, Russian Federation and GB.  


USA wheelchair curling ends their Paralympic Games in fifth place with a 9-4 record.



Alpine Skiing

Mark Bathum and guide Cade Yamamoto earned the best time for the USA in alpine skiing, coming in fourth in visually impaired slalom with just one second between them and third place.


“My slalom needs a lot of work," Bathum said. "The effort was there but the execution may not have been there. As good as a guide as Cade is, he is an even better coach. He had me skiing a couple of great days of slalom this year but I was not able to replicate that here on the hill today. Slalom is a heck of a lot of fun, we had a blast out there today."


Gerald Hayden got 11th in the men’s sitting class after recovering from a fall on the run. Ralph Green got 17th in the standing slalom.


The International Paralympic Committee announced that Anna Schaffelhuber of Germany had successfully appealed her disqualification from Wednesday's sitting slalom, resulting in Laurie Stephens being knocked back to fourth from third.  


Sled Hockey

Team USA made a statement with a major shutout of rival team Canada, 3-0. The US starting strong, scoring twice in the first period and adding a third score in the second. Canada rarely got a chance of scoring with the relentless USA defense never letting them near the goal.


"I have a lot of confidence in my forwards and my team," head coach Jeff Sauer said. "The fact that if they play the way they can, and if they move the way they can, it's very difficult to stay with us, and I thought we showed that tonight."


The win puts the US in the Paralympic final against Russia on Saturday.


About the Author: Brian Rank is a member of the Wheelchair Sports Federation media team reporting on events at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia.  The all-volunteer media team consists of professional writers and photographers who are donating their time and expertise to showcase the athleticism of disabled U.S. athletes and highlight their world class achievements in adaptive sports.  Some members of the media team are former Paralympians and wheelchair users/amputees.

 

Photo by Michael A. Clubine

Last Updated on Saturday, 15 March 2014 16:52
 
The Future is Accessible Print E-mail
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by Michael Dougherty


My father once told me in a rain-worn Irish pub: "If there's a roadblock, climb over it." I once crawled through a construction pit that broke up a Los Angeles sidewalk because I was going to be late for a movie. I lost my shoe, too. So, my dad was preaching to the choir. I am reminded of it, though, as the Sochi Winter Games are underway and there are more than a few hundred athletes who face similar roadblocks. The tenacious ones understand already some variation of my father's advice, but Russia poses interesting challenges because it has had to revamp its infrastructure to accommodate these athletes for the very first time on home soil.


The callous might believe that not enough has been done. The language difference can be troublesome. The elevators don't work properly. Ramps are hard to find. Certainly, the desire to see Russia fail, an odd facet of human nature within popular culture, colors the expectations that followed them into the opening ceremonies last week.


Still, as I rolled thunder through the Sochi airport, it struck me how much care individuals took in getting me to where I needed to be and at what time. They have worked to get the appropriate transportation, complete with lifts, door-to-door and show me, sometimes several volunteers at a time, where to go in the Olympic Village. All of this has been enacted with eagerness to please and be helpful.

The experience of accessibility has been a surprisingly positive one. Given that my major attitude toward this subject runs toward the pugilistic, due in large part to my adopted city in California's own failing infrastructure and it's refusal to cotton to basic civil rights when it comes to public transportation. That's for another time.

In particular, ramps here in Sochi are omnipresent. They've made traversing the sidewalks in town easy, to the degree that my anger has dissipated and I am able to simply enjoy myself. There are more than enough vans with lifts and the service is quick and streamlined. The elevators work and the volunteers keep the wheels spinning around the clock. You can say a lot about Russia, but they figured out and executed this huge, ground-breaking endeavor with a great deal of precision and energy.

I don't think this is a mistake and it has to do with all these  volunteers offering their time and space to us. That the volunteers are young people, mostly college age, means a great deal, even if it's hard to articulate now. The Russian government has made some abhorrent political decisions that show them as bullying rather than powerful. The pernicious cloud of disability maltreatment hangs over the Sochi Paralympics and the Russian people. The next generation of Russian citizens, though, hold the power to keep changing their country and its attitudes. Enough of them together could shift the cultural tide toward a more inclusive and humanistic one, devoid of ancient prejudices, possessed of a new compassion. A government is only as good as its people will allow it and the old regime, even the current one, stands on shaky ground because myopia and fear-mongering hold back progress. Yet, these everyday youth clearly have it in them to seize back the political soul of their nation by not collaborating with oppression and keeping their hands reaching out to those in need. As Tony Kushner wrote in "Angels in America": "And only in politics does the miraculous occur." There is a miracle here waiting for the future, a new Perestroika for the disenfranchised.

So, I think it's appropriate to tip our hats to our host nation. It almost feels like we're fitting in, and that's saying something. So, if you see one of the volunteers in those must-have super fabulous jackets exploding with all those gay (see: un-ironically happy) colors, give him or her a thumbs up when they point the way. It can only do good and reinforce that there's nothing to be worried about on either end, at least until one of us falls down an open manhole and dies. Then worry. A lot.

About the Author: Michael Dougherty is a member of the Wheelchair Sports Federation media team reporting on events at the 2014 Paralympic Games in Sochi, Russia.  The all-volunteer media team consists of professional writers and photographers who are donating their time and expertise to showcase the athleticism of disabled U.S. athletes and highlight their world class achievements in adaptive sports.  Some members of the media team are former Paralympians and wheelchair users/amputees. The Wheelchair Sports Federation is a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for the disabled and wheelchair-bound adults and youth to play sports recreationally and competitively.  For more information, visi twww.WheelchairSportsFederation.org.

Last Updated on Friday, 14 March 2014 21:15
 
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