2010 Vancouver Paralympics - Day Seven Print
Written by Peter Quartuccio   

American Alana Nichols Wins Her Third Paralympic Medal in Today’s Women’s Sitting Super-G, While Japan Dominates Men’s Event

 

            The United States has a combined 8 Paralympic Medals in Alpine Skiing, and 3 of them belong to Alana Nichols.  Her performance today at Whistler Creekside earned her a Silver Medal in the Women’s Sitting Super-G event.  Prior to today, both of her medals were of the Gold variety, but she finished 2.79 seconds behind Claudia Loesch of Austria, who finished first.  Another American, Laurie Stephens, had a strong showing, finishing a mere 0.13 seconds out of a medal spot.  (Germany’s Anna Schaffelhuber won the Bronze.)  In the Men’s Sitting Super-G, Japan claimed two of the three medal spots, with Akira Kano winning Gold and countryman Taiki Morii taking Bronze.  German Martin Braxenthaler won the Silver.  Christopher Devlin-Young had the best showing among U.S. Men in the event, but like fellow American Stephens, his 4th place finish was oh so close to a Paralympic Medal.  Even closer, in fact, than Stephens: Devlin-Young was only three-tenths of a second behind Morii.  Tyler Walker of the U.S. had an interesting run: despite having a spill, he still managed to have a faster time than seven other skiers who completed the Sitting Super-G.

 

 Canada and Germany Claim Gold in Women’s and Men’s Standing Super-G, Respectively

 

            Canadian Alpine Skier Lauren Woolstencroft has a chance tomorrow to do something truly magical: she can sweep all of the Women’s Standing Alpine Skiing events in the 2010 Winter Paralympics.  She came into today’s Standing Super-G competition already with three Golds on her mantle, and left Whistler Creekside with another, winning her fourth Paralympic Gold Medal with another remarkable performance.  She posted a time that was nearly five and a half seconds better than Silver Medalist runner-up Melania Corrandini of Italy, an enormous margin in this event.  Tomorrow, in the Women’s Standing Super Combined, Woolstencroft has the opportunity of a lifetime.  She has already done something unforgettable.  On Saturday, she has a shot to become legendary. 

            In the Men’s version of the Standing Super-G, Gerd Schonfelder took home the Gold for Germany.  While his wasn’t quite the insurmountable time Woolstencroft’s was, Schonfelder nevertheless won handily, besting Frenchman Vincent Gauthier-Manuel’s Silver Medal winning time by 1.13 seconds.  Hubert Mandl of Austria won the Bronze, finishing nearly half a second quicker than 4th place finisher Lionel Braun of France.  Bradley Washington performed best among the American men, finishing 17th in the Standing Super-G.

 

  Put Up or Shut Up: Norway Silences Team Canada and Takes Bronze

 

            It is an adage as old as the hills, a warning of consequences and repercussions, and a piece of advice to the vain: “If you’re gonna talk the talk, you better walk the walk.”  Team Canada should have taken heed to these words.  They talked a great game, speaking with an air of arrogance that put them in a position where they had to win, else face the consequences of their brashness.  Prior to the 2010 Paralympic games, Canadian Forward Billy Bridges denigrated the U.S. for their youth, boasting that Canada’s "combined Olympic experience is probably more than the combined age of [Team USA]. They come in with jitters and youth and nerves and we come in with the support of millions."  His teammate Herve Lord dismissed the possibility of the U.S. beating Canada, declaring bluntly that “it's just not going to happen, us losing to them this year. No way.”  Of course, he proved to be right, but not in the way he expected or wanted.  The most topical of Canada’s brash remarks, however, was made by Canadian Alternate Captain Bradley Bowden, who spoke—prematurely, as it turned out—of the end of Norway’s reign as a sled hockey power, proclaiming that “[Norway has] been the top dog for years, but they’ve had their day.”  Friday night, Norway proved Bowden wrong.  Team Norway beat Canada 2-1, winning the Bronze and sending Team Canada home with nothing but anguish and regret.

            The 1st period of the game was fast-paced, but largely uneventful: one penalty, no goals.  It was in the 2nd, however, when the trend of missed opportunities for Team Canada began.  Norway committed three penalties, which gave Canada a 5-on-4 advantage for over a third of the 2nd period.  Canada could not cash in on their three power play chances, and despite peppering Norway goalie Roger Johansen with 14 shots over the course of 15 minutes, they ended the period deadlocked at zero.  The Canadians finally broke through in the 3rd, as Adam Dixon scored just under three minutes into the period.  After that, it all unraveled for Canada. 

            Shortly after the goal—34 seconds to be exact—Dixon committed a two-minute minor penalty, almost immediately squelching the momentum gained by his goal.  Dixon’s penalty was followed by another, then another, and then came the most costly mistake of all: coinciding with penalty on Norway’s Helge Bjornstad, Canada was penalized for Falling on the Puck, which resulted in a penalty shot opportunity for the Norwegians.  Canada’s goalie Paul Rosen was irate, throwing his mask on the ice and having to be restrained by his teammates.  Perhaps Rosen never really collected himself, for Norway’s Rolf Elnar Pederson beat Rosen to his left, tying the game up 1-1.  Canada was clearly shaken up by the goal, and their play showed it.  They looked desperate and flustered, almost as if they could not believe losing this game was a legitimate possibility.  With 3.6 seconds left in the game, Norway’s Eskil Hagen made that possibility a reality.  His wobbly shot deflected off of Billy Bridges and floated above the outstretched arms of Rosen and into the net.  The unwitting assistance of a Canadian player in the goal provided the perfect synopsis of the game: Canada beat themselves.  Those in attendance at the UBC Thunderbird Arena were shocked.  When the public address announcer read Hagen’s name over the loud speakers, you could hear a pin drop, or better yet, a maple leaf fall to the ground.  One could wager a hefty sum that no hockey game in Canada was ever so quiet as it was during those final 3.6 seconds following Hagen’s goal

            After Norway’s 3-0 loss to Team USA on Thursday night, some of the Norway players met with the media.  When the question was posed to Hagen if he felt confident going into the Bronze Medal game against Canada, he responded, “Yes.  We’ve beaten them before.  We know we can beat them.”  Some might call this bragging, but in the words of MLB Hall of Fame pitcher Dizzy Dean, “It ain’t bragging if you can do it.”  With his game-winning goal, Hagen backed up his words; Canada could not.  The closing moments of their loss gave a perfect example of their false braggadocio.  After the face-off following the game-winning goal, Canadian Billy Bridges took a cheap shot on a Norway player in what was presumably retaliation for a hit made on Bridges earlier.  By acting the role of tough guy when the game was essentially over, Bridges’ actions exemplified the affected and spurious bravado of Team Canada.

            Before the Paralympics began, there was a good deal of speculation among the Canadian media that Canada could sweep the hockey medals, adding a Sled Hockey Gold to those won by the Men’s and Women’s Olympic Hockey teams.  Just speculation, it turned out to be; empty words, very much like the empty chatter of Team Canada.  Redemption may eventually come for the Canadians in the future, but four years is an awfully long time.  The Vancouver 2010 Winter Paralympics was their chance to achieve expectations, to live up to the hype of their own making, and to win Gold on their home soil.  They blew it.       

             For more coverage of the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver, please visit www.WheelchairSportsFederation.org.

 

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All photos are by Carter Farmer.

 

Last Updated on Monday, 22 March 2010 19:02