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2010 Vancouver Paralympics - Day Seven Print E-mail
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.

 

All photos are by Carter Farmer.

 

Last Updated on Monday, 22 March 2010 19:02
 
2010 Vancouver Paralympics - Day Six Print E-mail
Written by Peter Quartuccio   
 
 Team USA Fulfills Their End of the Bargain, but Canada Does Not: U.S. to Face Japan on Saturday for Paralympic Gold

            Upset looked to be the order of the day after the 1st period of the U.S. versus Norway sled hockey game on Thursday night.  Team Japan had stunned the host country earlier on, beating Canada in their signature sport to earn a place in the 2010 Paralympic Sled Hockey Finals on Saturday.  Some might say that the Canadians went into the game looking past Japan, and of course the emphasis will be placed on how Canada blew it rather than how Team Japan won it in what U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Forward Tim Jones called “one of the best games I’ve ever seen [a team play].”  Truth be told, Team Japan simply outplayed Canada, which is remarkable considering they had endured a 6-0 trouncing on Tuesday night against Team USA.

            Norway looked as if they could continue the trend and ensure that everyone would get the matchup they’ve been dying for, but with the Bronze rather than the Gold at stake.  The U.S. looked tight as a drum in the 1st period.  They were being pushed around and making poor passes.  Ray Maluta, head coach of Team USA, said after the game that his team was “nervous” in the 1st period, and that they were “pressing” rather than playing their game.   They, like Canada, looked ripe for an upset.  Things changed, however, in the 2nd period.  About eight minutes into the period, American Forward Greg Shaw made a slick move near the Norway net, fooling Norway’s goalie Roger Johansen and putting the puck past him.  Shaw’s goal opened the floodgates, not in the form of a torrent of goals, but in a surge of confidence.  Amid chants of “Let’s Go Norway” that easily drowned out the cheers of “USA,” Team USA took over the game after Shaw’s goal, one which may very well go down as the most important goal scored in recent U.S. Sled Hockey history.  Not to be overlooked, however, was the contribution of goalie Steve Cash, who has been simply magnificent during the Paralympics.  “Money,” as he is known on the squad, has not allowed a goal in 165 consecutive minutes of Paralympic play.  Just minutes after Shaw scored, Norway had a breakaway chance that could’ve resulted in an equalizing goal and a swift momentum shift back to the Norwegians.  Cash, however, made a great save, protecting the lead and maintaining the momentum.  The U.S. scored twice after Cash’s save, a power play goal by Taylor Chace in the 2nd and a late 3rd period goal by Joe Howard, which essentially put a bow on Team USA’s 3-0 win.

 

            When asked how he feels about his players, Coach Maluta replied, “I love our team.”  Team USA gave him good reason to feel that way on Thursday night.  They showed determination and grit, battling a tough team in Norway with nothing to lose, and recovering from a very shaky first 20 minutes.  They, in short, proved they can take a punch; Team Canada cannot make the same claim.  The Canadians will play Team Norway on Friday night for the Bronze.  (Norway lost to Canada 5-0 earlier in the Paralympics.)  For the U.S., they will have a chance to win their second Paralympic Gold Medal in Sled Hockey on Saturday against Japan at 12:00 PM local time.

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

 
 
 
All photos are by Carter Farmer.
Last Updated on Monday, 22 March 2010 18:59
 
2010 Vancouver Paralympics - Day Four Print E-mail
Written by Peter Quartuccio   

Undefeated And Perhaps Untested, Team USA Skates Into the Paralympic Semifinals

 

            There were smiles on the faces of the U.S. players after they thrashed Japan 6-0 and earned themselves a place in the 2010 Paralympic Semifinals on Tuesday night, but you could sense that they expected to make it this far.  There was no prolonged celebration, and frankly, there shouldn’t have been.  There are simply too many terrific players on this team to accept anything less than a Paralympic Medal, and some would argue anything less than a Gold would be a disappointment.  The way several members of Team USA are playing certainly give them a very good shot at winning Gold, but there are serious concerns that I’m sure more than solely myself have about this team.

            Americans Taylor Lipsett and Alexi Salamone continued their fantastic play against Team Japan, with Taylor scoring his fourth goal in three games and Alexi scoring his third of these Paralympics.  The remaining four goals were firsts for each of the scorers: Forward Greg Shaw, Forward Adam Page, Defenseman Nikko Landeros, and four-time Paralympian, the great Joe Howard.  As with their previous victories, the U.S. scored in each of the three periods, distributing their six goals equally: two in the first, two in the second, and two in the third.  Penalties were a problem once again for Team USA, but they did not commit any truly egregious errors on the ice last night. 

            In truth, this game was nearly identical to the two games that preceded it.  Japan, like Korea and the Czech Republic before them, lacked the defense to stop the quick and tirelessly aggressive U.S. attack, leading to way too many shots on goal for Japan’s goalie to handle.  From the offensive perspective, Team Japan could not sustain possessions long enough to mount a real attack.  Instead, they relied on poor U.S. passing and turnovers to create scoring chances, a strategy that rarely results in goals and even more rarely results in victories.  Their best offensive opportunity was a breakaway that was stopped with relative ease by the excellent U.S. goalie Steve Cash, who has not allowed a goal in 75 consecutive minutes of Paralympic play.  Team USA simply overwhelmed Japan, doing pretty much whatever they wanted, whenever they wanted.

            The biggest worry Team USA has going into the semis and hopefully beyond is that their play has not consistently been at the level they’re capable of.  Tom Brake, who has years of sled hockey coaching experience and has even coached several members of Team USA, said it best: “They’re playing to the level of their competition.”  Rather than just blowing out their far inferior foes, they have instead kept them at a safe distance with three and four goal leads.  Their wins have been comfortable affairs, not out-and-out beatdowns, which they should’ve been.  In short, they have dominated their competition without being truly dominant, and perhaps this is because they haven’t had to be so yet.  They haven’t been truly tested.  Their play, while it has lead to an impressive three victories and a combined goal differential of +17, seems lackluster at times, and despite their immense talent, they struggle with the so-called “little things.”  Sloppy line changes, lax passing, dumb penalties.  These are not the marks of a Gold Medal winning team, and it is something Team USA needs to remedy if they want to find themselves hearing The Star Spangled Banner play as they stand atop the victory podium on Saturday afternoon.

 

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

 
 
Last Updated on Thursday, 18 March 2010 22:44
 
2010 Vancouver Paralympics - Day Three Print E-mail
Written by Peter Quartuccio   

Canada and Germany Win Four of the Six Medals Awarded at Whistler Creekside for the Men’s and Women’s Standing Slalom

 

 

            After a seemingly endless string of delays at Whistler Creekside, site of the Alpine Skiing events at the 2010 Winter Paralympics, action got under way Monday the 15th for the Men’s and Women’s Standing Slalom event.  It was an unexpectedly warm day in Whistler, but neither the competitors nor the crowd who packed the place seemed to mind.  Both the Men’s and Women’s classes were dominated by Canada, who took home two medals in the Women’s Slalom, and Germany, who won Silver in both the Men’s and Women’s events.  For the Men, New Zealander Adam Hall ran the table, leading after his first run by over two full seconds and edging past Germany’s Gerd Schonfelder for the overall time.  Schonfelder’s excellent second run put him only half a second behind Gold Medalist Hall.  In the Women’s Standing Slalom, Canada reigned supreme, occupying two of the three places on the Medal podium.  Canadian Gold Medalist Lauren Woolstencroft dominated the event, winning by an enormous margin of 6.38 seconds.  Teammate Karolina Wisniewska narrowly missed Silver, as German Andrea Rothfuss’ time bested Wisniewska’s by a margin of 49 seconds, forcing the latter to settle for the Bronze.  American skier Allison Jones recovered from a 7th place position after her first run thanks to a very strong second run.  In fact, when she crossed the finish line her second time down the course, the time she posted put her in first.  Unfortunately, her time didn’t hold up, as she wound up finishing in 5thplace overall.  Allison’s finishing slot, however, was the best among all American skiers that day, both Men and Women.  The best American performance in the Men’s class belonged to Monte Meier, who finished 8th.

 

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

 

 

Flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/48379941@N06/sets/
 
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Last Updated on Thursday, 18 March 2010 15:32
 
NBC TODAY Show Sled Hockey Demonstration 3-12-2010 Print E-mail
Written by John Hamre   

 

Sled Hockey players from the New Jersey and New York area joined Al Roker on the the TODAY Show on Friday March 12, 2010 to help promote the 2010 Winter Paralympics in Vancouver.  Click on the following link to view 

 http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/26184891/vp/35834327#35834327 

 

For information about the games, please go to www.usparalympics.org and check out NBC Sports for the TV Schedule.

Opening Ceremony highlights – Saturday, March 13, 1-2 p.m.
Paralympics recap – Saturday, April 10, 3-5 p.m.

Universal Sports
Monday, March 15 – Tuesday March 23, 7 p.m. (re-air at 11 p.m.)
Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 March 2010 01:32
 
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