While many students cursed snow for interrupting their spring break, many people around the globe spent the time glued to television screens to watch the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games. Team USA came home with 13 medals and finished fifth out of 27 countries.
The Paralympics started in 1948 in England for World War II veterans with spinal cord injuries, but have now become an international event. The Games are held the same year and in the same location as the Olympic Games.
There are three Paralympic winter sports and 18 summer sports. The three winter sports are alpine skiing, cross-country skiing (Nordic, aka involving rifles) and sled hockey. All athletes are put into different categories and classifications according to their disability level.
Paralympic alpine skiing is similar to the Olympic Games with downhill skiing, super g-skiing, giant slalom skiing and slalom skiing. The difference is that many athletes use prosthetics and adaptive equipment. Skiers with visual impairments use a guide to direct them through the course at flying speeds (if you get the chance, look this up online — it’s fantastically intense).
Cross-country skiing has events that range between 2.5 km to 20 km and is composed of sit-ski athletes, traditional skiing athletes, and skiers with visual impairments. Athletes can compete as a team or individually.
Sled hockey is one of the newest sports and one of the most popular. Athletes sit on sleds with two blades underneath, and possess both a spike end and a blade end to maneuver and move the puck. The sport runs for 15 minutes and has six players (including a goalie) on the ice at all times.
The games began with a bumpy start as weather refused to cooperate. Fog prevented many athletes from beginning training on time, delayed the start of the games and eventually cancelled a few events. After all, going 90 miles an hour down a mountain without visibility (for those who are non-visually impaired) could be a living nightmare.
Team USA defeated Japan in sled hockey and brought home the gold. USA is the first nation to bring home two gold medals for ice hockey (winning gold in 2002 in Salt Lake City). Norway scored their winning shot with a mere 3.6 seconds to go in the game-winning bronze. Italy won their first sled hockey game ever and placed seventh overall.
The women’s 3k gold medal finalist crossed the finish line proudly carrying the large Russian flag behind her. The men’s visually impaired 3k took an interesting twist as the lead skier, representing Germany, fell, allowing Ukraine to speed ahead and take the gold. USA brought home the gold for women’s sit-skiing, and Germany’s athlete Schonfelder now has 22 Paralympic medals after winning gold this winter.
(Wheelchair) curling finals were as follows (in order of first place to tenth): Canada, US, Korea, Sweden, Italy, Great Britain, Switzerland, Germany, Norway, Japan.
Videos are available online with a search for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Paralympic Games.