Paralympic Update

FasterSkierMarch 11, 2009

Whistler, British Columbia – The Paralympic Olympic test events were a great success.  Reports from the US and Canada below.

Bascio leads U.S. at Whistler Paralympic Test Event

by Ian Lawless

Monica Bascio (USA) at the Paralympic World Cup 2009 (Photo: Ian Lawless)
Monica Bascio (USA) at the Paralympic World Cup 2009 (Photo: Ian Lawless)

The U.S. Ski Team’s Monica Bascio (LW11, Evergreen, CO) made a triumphant return to the podium last Thursday at the IPC Paralympic Cross Country test event at Whistler Olympic Park, with a bronze in the 5-kilometer middle distance race. The American finished just :26 behind world cup leader Liudmila Vauchok of Belarus and :30 behind race winner Olena Iurkovska of Ukraine. Bascio returns to the podium for the first time since her rookie season in 2004, and is back for a full World Cup schedule after giving birth to son Henry in 2007, and suffering a broken leg in Norway in 2008. A slow start at the February world cup in Finland sent Bascio home for some focused training, and it paid off. “I was rusty [in Finland], just not having raced for so long, so I came home and did a lot of speed work before Whistler, and this result has really got me inspired for the games next year!” said Bascio.

Chris Klebl (LW11, Heber City, UT) was the best-placed men’s U.S. Ski Team athlete, finishing 8th in the men’s 10km middle distance race. Both Bascio and Sean Halsted (LW 11.5, Ephrata, WA) made the sprint semfinals on Saturday, but failed to advance to the finals. The team heads to Mt. Washington on Vancouver island today, and will compete in middle and long distance races on Thursday and Saturday, respectively. You can read the official U.S. Ski Team press release here:



—McKeever brothers win second straight gold in men’s sprint, Robbi Weldon and Brian Berry team up for bronze medal in women’s race—

by Chris Dornan

WHISTLER, B.C.—The maple leaf was raised high above the podium twice at Whistler Paralympic Park on Saturday as Canada claimed a gold and bronze medal in the classic sprint races of the IPC Cross-Country Skiing World Cup.

Brian and Robin McKeever won their second gold medal in as many races in the men’s visually impaired category, while Robbi Weldon and Brian Berry, of Thunder Bay, Ont., capitalized on a disqualification from a Russian team to win the bronze medal in the women’s visually impaired division.

The McKeever brothers, who hail from Canmore, Alta., continued their dominance of the IPC World Cup leading from start to finish. Seeking a little redemption after finishing second in the sprint discipline at the World Championships in late January, the Canadian duo were much more prepared to win gold at home and finished more than a second ahead of their Russian rivals.

“It was a much better day and technically we played our cards right,” said Robin McKeever, who added he and his brother both decided to double-pole the final on skate-skis. “Getting beat definitely motivates me to be better and I did a much better job guiding Brian today than I did in Finland.”

The McKeevers were joined on the podium by two Russian teams. Evgeniy Safronov and Salavat Gumerov finished in second spot, while Andrey Tokarev guided Nikolay Polukhin to third place.

Meanwhile, Weldon and Berry enjoyed a lucky day en route to the podium. Weldon qualified in fourth spot after the prologue to move into the semifinals which consist of four athletes in each heat. After advancing to the finals, Weldon and Berry finished fourth, but a Russian skier was disqualified for skate-skiing which bumped the Canadian duo onto the podium.

“I am very pleased today and was excited to be in the final after a really fast prologue,” said the 33-year-old Weldon. “It was a good fast course and a great test for us.”

Canada’s wax technicians also got a great test in preparation for the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games which will take place in Vancouver-Whistler one year from now. The athletes faced overcast skies for the qualification round, snow in the semifinal heats and sun and clear skies for the finals.

“It was a typical Whistler Olympic Park day,” said Robin McKeever. “We know how fast things change here and I think it must be a big advantage for us.”

“It was a waxers delight today,” beamed Weldon. “It really was a good test for the wax techs too because we know how hard it can snow and how quickly the weather can change here so it was good for us to face that today.”

Polina Kameneva and Natalia Yakimova, of Russia, were first in the women’s visually impaired race, while Tatiana Ilyuchenko and Valery Koshkin settled for the silver medal.

Three other Canadians also qualified for the heats. Colette Bourgonje, of Saskatoon, who hit the start line for the first time after battling illness all week, finished fourth in the women’s sit-ski race. Jody Barber, of Smithers, B.C., and Shawna-Maria Whyte, of Hinton, Alta., both had their hopes for a medal in Whistler dashed in the semifinals. Barber competed in the women’s standing division, while Whyte came up short of finishing in the top-two of her semifinal heat in the women’s sit-ski field.

Canada’s Para-Nordic athletes will now head to Vancouver Island for the IPC World Cup Finals, March 9-15 at Mt. Washington. Brian and Robin McKeever will head to Duntroon, Ont. to compete in the Haywood Ski Nationals

Cross Country Canada is the governing body of cross-country skiing in Canada. Its 51,000 members include athletes, coaches, officials and skiers of all ages and abilities, including those on Canada’s National Ski Teams and Para-Nordic Ski Teams. Cross-country skiing is Canada’s optimal winter sport and recreational activity with more than one million Canadians participating annually.



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