Wheelchair Sports Federation | Adaptive Sports Organization
TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETES SHINE AT 40TH ANNUAL TRI-STATE REGIONAL Print E-mail
Written by Peter Quartuccio   

TRACK AND FIELD ATHLETES SHINE AT 40TH ANNUAL TRI-STATE REGIONAL

Dozens of Disabled Athletes Take Part in Three-Day Event

 

EDISON, NJ—Despite somewhat shoddy weather, this year’s edition of the Tri-State Regional Track and Field Competition was one of the finest ever run, and included some sparkling performances by the numerous participants.  The event, which was held at Thomas Edison Park in Edison, New Jersey, was sponsored by the JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute, and co-sponsored by the Tri-State Wheelchair Athletic Association and the WASUSA.  The competition took place over the course of three days, from Friday, May 21 through Sunday, May 23, and included table tennis, archery, weightlifting, shot-put, discus, javelin, and several track events. 

 

            The events were separated by both gender and class of disability, and while all of the athletes performed admirably, a few set themselves apart thanks to their monumental efforts.  Colleen Rock had a particularly strong few days in Edison, finishing at or near the top in every event—weightlifting, archery, table tennis, track, and field—in which she participated.   Miguel Jimenez-Vergara also dominated, taking first in archery as well as several track and field events.  Other standouts included Raymond Martin in archery and field, Stephanie Marquez in discus and track, and Lynne Ganley in track and field.  One of the more remarkable performances, however, was by Xavier Perez, a runner who despite spraining his ankle, still managed to post impressive times in the 100 and 200 Meter runs.

            Determination and sportsmanship were exhibited by all of the athletes at the 40th Annual Tri-State Regional, and their efforts helped to ensure that there will be a 41st.

            For more information about disabled sports and events, please visit www.WheelchairSportsFederation.org.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 29 June 2010 23:42
 
2010 Vancouver Paralympics - Day Eight Print E-mail
Written by Peter Quartuccio   

 

 

Americans Finally Take Gold on the Hockey Rink: USA’s Paralympic Sled Hockey Team Does What the Olympians Couldn’t, and Canada is Left to Ponder What Could’ve Been

 

            Before a somewhat spiteful Canadian crowd, many of whom were playing the part of “Japan fan for the day” thanks to their team’s ignominious early exit, Team USA’s sled hockey team took home the Gold Medal in a 2-0 victory over Team Japan.  The U.S. were on enemy soil, and they faced a team that was fast, dangerous, and hot off their country’s biggest sled hockey win on the Paralympic stage.  Team Japan made it clear from the onset that they were not merely satisfied with beating Canada and content with a Silver.  Team USA was made to earn their Gold Medal against Japan, whose quickness and tenacity were made most evident in the 3rd period.  American goalie Steve Cash could not merely rely on his defense in order to gain the win.  In previous games, his defensemen often dispatched of potential scoring threats before they were anywhere near the net, but in the final period, “Money”—a nickname he received thanks to his consistently clutch play—was under attack consistently.  Japan’s shots, while not always on goal, were continuous, and were it not for some terrific saves, the game might have had a vastly different outcome.  Team USA needed their goalie to stand on his head, and that’s exactly what Cash did, stopping all of the shots he faced—including a potentially momentum shifting penalty shot—and extending his streak to 210 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal.  The U.S. Sled Hockey team did not trail in any of their five games, and did not allow a goal throughout the competition, a truly amazing feat.

            Although many viewed Team USA as the favorites, they had to overcome several obstacles.  Firstly, they are a very young team, with only four players over the age of 25.  This kind of youth gives the team an advantage in terms of energy and stamina, but it also lends itself to anxiety and immaturity.  Fortunately for the U.S., they reaped all of the benefits of their team’s youth and experienced virtually none of its pitfalls.  Another challenge that that Team USA had to overcome was the site of these Paralympic Games.  Throughout the competition, Team USA faced a highly partisan crowd.  Regardless of who they faced, the U.S. found themselves being cheered against, and this only grew as the Paralympics continued.  By the time Canada was knocked out of Medal contention, there was even a small smattering of boos in response to chants of “USA.”  This too could have shaken the U.S. players, but it seems that they instead relished their role as the men in the black hats, channeling whatever emotions the crowd elicited onto the ice. 

            Finally, they faced the ultimate task of achieving expectations.  This proved to be no doubt the toughest of their challenges.  They started off with a decisive but sloppy and uneven win against Korea, and were not overly impressive in their next game against the Czech Republic.  (The titanic effort by Czech goalie Michal Vapenka didn’t help their cause.)  The team looked better against Japan, and a crop of Team USA players began to emerge as the go-to consistent performers.  Taylor Lipsett and Alexi Salamone had already amassed four and three goals each, respectively, and seemed to ooze confidence as they took their shifts.  Similarly, Nikko Landeros and Taylor Chace exhibited the requisite physicality and nastiness present in the best defensemen; they dished out crushing yet clean hits, and they played a huge role in keeping U.S. opponents off the scoreboard throughout the team’s Paralympic run. 

 

            After their 6-0 rout of Japan, Team USA took the ice for a Semifinal showdown with Norway that was far and away the biggest test they faced.  Earlier that day, Team Japan had shocked the nation by knocking Canada out of Gold Medal contention.  Upset was in the air, and uncertainty reigned over the proceedings as the referee dropped the puck, for if Team Canada could lose to Japan, a team that was beaten by six goals the night before, then the defending Silver Medalists Norway could certainly upend the Americans.  And as the 1st period progressed, that outcome looked more and more plausible.  Team USA seemed tentative and nervous, more fearful of suffering Canada’s fate than focused on playing their brand of hockey.  Greg Shaw’s 2nd period goal put an end to that doubt.  The importance of his goal cannot be overstated, as the team seemed reborn afterwards.  Confident, physical, aggressive, Team USA took over the game, and dashed any thoughts of a premature exit from both the minds of the players and the hopes of Canadians everywhere. 

            Their Gold Medal winning effort against Team Japan was a triumph of perseverance and confidence, a confidence that never mutated into arrogance as it did with Canada.  Team USA knew they belonged atop the Victory Podium, but they did not take it for granted, and they did not crumble when opponents pushed them; they simply pushed back harder.  They responded to the expectations of their fans, of their country, and of themselves, and took home the Gold; the other supposed “titan” of the sport did not.

            As they were throughout their run in the Paralympics, Japan was all class in defeat.  They are perhaps the most widely liked sled hockey team, and the genuineness with which they embraced and expressed congratulations to the Americans showed all why they are held in such high regard.  Team Captain Takayuki Endo wept as he received his Silver Medal, and received a richly deserved raucous ovation from the thousands in attendance at the UBC Thunderbird Arena.  His team achieved what no other Japanese Paralympic sled hockey squad did, and achieved it the right way: with dedication, pride, and honor.  No one can ever question Team Japan.  They came into Vancouver a wild card, a long shot at best, and left Silver Medalists.  Japan will improve, and Norway, Canada, and the U.S. must now make room for and take notice of a new sled hockey power.

            With their victory on Saturday, the United States became the first nation to win two Paralympic Gold Medals in sled hockey, with their first coming in 2002 at the Salt Lake City games.  On the ice, they embraced and celebrated, giddy with the thrill of victory.  Team USA had overcome all and won Gold.  They are back on top, and their 2010 Winter Paralympic run has proved that that’s exactly where they deserve to be.

For more coverage of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Paralympics please visit: http://www.WheelchairSportsFederation.org

 

 

All photos are by Carter Farmer.
Last Updated on Monday, 22 March 2010 19:05
 
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
 
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