Wheelchair Sports Federation | Adaptive Sports Organization
Pageantry & Controversy Mark The Opening of 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi Print E-mail
Written by Administrator   
Written by Brian Rank 
Photos by Michael Clubine and Ken King


SOCHI, Russia – In a spectacle of ice, fire and jubilation, the Sochi Winter Paralympics opened on Friday. The ceremony showcased Russia’s effort to prove it is renewed and ready to welcome the Paralympians after a history of intolerance toward people with disabilities.  

The flawless ceremony that displayed Russia’s rich history and culture created an elated atmosphere inside Fisht Olympic Stadium, but could not keep out the uncomfortable realities building outside. The tense international climate around Putin’s involvement in Ukraine and Russia’s controversial stance on homosexuality made their way into the proceedings in sometimes less-than-subtle words and actions.

But for most of the attendees, it was a night for celebrating the athletes from 45 nations that had made it this far and who will be competing for the 72 medals over the next week.

One of the most symbolically important moments of the night was when Russian Federation President, Vladimir Putin, entered the stadium and shook hands with International Paralympic Committee President, Sir Philip Craven. The greeting stood in stark contrast to the former Soviet Union’s refusal to host the Paralympic Games following the 1980 Olympics in Moscow claiming there were no people with disabilities in Russia.

Sir Craven recognized Russia’s progress since the Moscow Olympics in his speech during the ceremony.

“Tonight is a very special occasion, tonight is proof that what might not seem possible, is possible,” he said.   

He later lauded Russia for making Sochi accessible to the athletes, and, in what seemed to be a veiled reference to the Russian Duma’s recent passage of a controversial law banning the spreading of “homosexual propaganda” to children, said, “In the same way that the city of Sochi has built a barrier-free environment for athletes and officials to enjoy, I call upon all those who experience these Games to have barrier-free minds too.”

During a video played at the ceremony explaining the creation of the Paralympic movement by Ludwig Guttmann in 1948, the narrator, actor Ian Mckellan, a gay man, stated that the Paralympics is about equality regardless of sexual orientation.  

The main event of the night was the Parade of Nations, when the delegations from 45 nations entered the stadium bearing their country's flag to cheers from the crowd. This year saw three nations competing for the first time at the winter paralympics: Brazil, which will host the 2016 summer Games; Turkey and Uzbekistan.

A somewhat surprising delegation present was Ukraine. A country that’s recently instated government is not recognized by Russia and to where Putin has allegedly sent troops to protect Russian-speaking citizens in the Crimea peninsula.  

Ukraine has 23 athletes competing but chose to send just one athlete out to the Parade of Nations as the others apparently waited outside in protest. Nordic skier Michael Tkachenko entered the stadium to an eruption of cheers, his face stolid as he made his way through the arena. His movements were watched by President Putin who was overseeing the parade, a scenario not unlike the current situation in Ukraine.

Both the U.S. and U.K. did not send political delegations to the Games in protest of Russia’s involvement in Ukraine. Their athletes are still attending.

Politics aside, the pageantry of the evening was something to be marvelled.  

The ceremony, titled ‘Breaking the Ice,’ was an elegant exposition of Russian art and culture. Dancers opened the ceremony with an intricately choreographed representation of the Russian Federation flag followed by a sampling of Tchaikovsky’s Dance of The Sugar Plum Fairy played on a glass organ accompanied by a crowd of young ballerinas.

Throughout the performances appeared representations of the Firebird, a mythical creature in Slavic folklore and one of the mascots of the winter Games. The shape of the Paralympic torch is modeled after a Firebird’s feather.

The crowning moment of the performance came after the Parade of Nations when an enormous model of an ice breaker ship lumbered into the stadium, topped by famed opera soprano and honorary IPC board member Maria Guleghina. Guleghina sang a “Cossack Lullaby” as the vessel floated across a frozen sea made of dancers bearing ice-like fragments.

The ceremony concluded in spectacular fashion as the Paralympic flame entered the stadium, carried by paralympians to the Sochi paralympic torch that was lit with a massive display of pyrotechnics.

The ceremonies kick off a week of games that continue from March 8 to 16. US audiences can see the events on NBC, NBC Sports Network or streaming onwww.nbcsports.com.

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. 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.

Last Updated on Saturday, 08 March 2014 23:57
Sled Hockey at Yankee Stadium Print E-mail
Written by Susan Calise   
Not many people would think of going to a baseball stadium in the dead of winter, especially after record breaking snowfall and frigid temperatures!  But, that is exactly what the NY Sled Rangers and their families did on February 6, 2014! 
The NY Yankees opened up their stadium this winter season to ice skaters and hockey players and  hosted the Stadium Series between NY Rangers/NJ Devils and NY Rangers/NY Islanders (both games went to the Rangers!).  And among these events they also opened the rink up to the NY Sled Rangers Kids team for a family skate followed by a game with the adult team vs the Philadelphia Flyers Sled Hockey team, with the Flyers edging out the Rangers. 
Despite the freezing temperatures, it was a fabulous night with all the players and their families out on the ice.  The kids worked a little on their speed and puck handling skills and the family members had a great time skating with their players. After the hour of skating the Yankees served hot chocolate and everyone got a chance to socialize in the comfort of the indoors.  Overall everyone had a great time.  Whether a Yankee fan or a hockey fan or just a fan of ice skating, this was truly a once in a lifetime experience!
Last Updated on Friday, 28 February 2014 22:48
Night of a Thousand Smiles Print E-mail
Written by Sue Calise   


Over 300 people braved the dismal winter weather on Wednesday night to come out and support the Wheelchair Sports Federation’s Sled Rangers at Bryant Park in New York City.  Despite a day of freezing rain, mountains of slush and puddles as deep as rivers at every street crossing, Bryant Park’s Winter Village was a true winter wonderland, an oasis of white and crystalline beauty amongst the gray backdrop of midtown Manhattan.  And in the middle of all this were the glowing smiles of kids and adults skating both in sleds and on traditional skates.  The purpose of this revelry was to raise funds and awareness of the sport of sled hockey (Adaptive Ice Hockey) and to highlight the local team, The New York Sled Rangers.  The Sled Rangers are made up of 24 kids from ages 5 to 22 with varying levels of mobility impairments.  Some have Cerebral Palsy, some Spina Bifida, but all some type of physical disability that makes getting around during a routine day difficult.  Get them out on the ice and it is a very different story.  Here you see their natural competiveness, camaraderie and overall their true ability to shine like any other kids playing a sport that they love.


This night could not have been possible without the support of our many generous sponsors: Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Pine River Capital Management, Glenview Capital Management, Citi, JP Morgan, Nomura, Credit Suisse, RBC Capital Markets, BNP Paribas, Goldman Sachs, Jefferies, Pinehouse Capital, RBS, and Upsilon Ventures.


We would also like to thank our fabulous MC, Ezra Night for coming out and kindly donating his time, our expert auctioneer, Alistair Nichol and our ubiquitous photographer, Matt Petosa. 


Last Updated on Tuesday, 11 February 2014 22:00
Sled Hockey in NYC Print E-mail
Written by John Hamre   
Last Updated on Monday, 03 March 2014 07:32
19th Annual Al Youakim Wheelchair Basketball Tournament (NJ) Print E-mail
Written by John Hamre   


The 19th Annual Al Youakim Wheelchair Basketball Tournament came to a conclusion on Sunday November 3rd, 2013.

The 5 Wheelchair Basketball Teams that attended were the Bulova Nets (NJ), New York Nets (NY), New England Blazers (MA), Nassau Kings (NY) and New York Rollin Knicks (NY).
The first day results were from Saturday November 2nd, 2013 – 9:00 am to 6:30 pm

9:00 am          Bulova Nets 54 v. Nassau Kings 39
10:15 am        New York Nets 31 v. New England Blazers 50
11:30 pm        New England Blazers 15 v. NY Rollin Knicks 56
12:45 pm        Bulova Nets 42 v. NY Rollin Knicks 53
2:00 pm          New York Nets 45 v Nassau Kings 50
3:15 pm          Nassau Kings 49 v. New England Blazers 47
4:30 pm          EWBC All-Stars 40 v NY Rolling Knicks Exhibition 62

The second day results were from Sunday November 3rd, 2013 – 9:00 am to 3:00 pm
9:00 am         Bulova Nets 53 v. New York Nets 26
10:15 am       Bulova Nets 49 v. New England Blazers 26
12:45 am       3rd Place Game - NY Nets 24 v New England Blazers 47
2:00 pm         Championship Game - Bulova Nets 46 v. Nassua Kings 54
 Final Standings:
1st Place -  Nassua Kings
2nd Place - Bulova Nets
3rd Place -  New England Blazers
4th Place -  New York Nets

All Stars
Class I - Dave Deas - NY Nets
Class I - Ray Grand - NE Blazers
Class II - Paul Ward - Bulova Nets
Class II - Chris Johnson - NE Blazers
Class III - Dan Keohane - NE Blazers
Class III - Steve Yedlock - Bulova Nets

Mike Lione Most Valuable Player Award - Michael Kelly - Nassau Kings

Freddy Jones Sportsmanship Award - Bobby Kranz - NY Nets

Al Youakim Spirit Award - Gleydis

Thanks to all of our volunteers and supporters for making this one of the oldest and most consistently run Wheelchair Basketball Tournament in the United States.

For more information please contact John Hamre at  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Last Updated on Tuesday, 05 November 2013 20:03
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