Coming in Hot, They Just Won’t Stop !

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Last week was all about the rivalry but this week puts a little focus on athletes to keep an eye out for in Sochi. The Paralympians that compete are a combination of athletes of all different ages, backgrounds and skill sets. Today I will highlight two accomplished stars that have not even put a dent in their young athletic careers and one very decorated woman who proves that age is just a number.

To go back to my German background a rising star over recent years is Andrea Rothfuss. At the age of just 24, Rothfuss has recently broken out as a major threat in Paralympic Alpine skiing. She competes in the Paralympic division for athletes who have an upper body disability such as paralysis, cerebral palsy or any kind of motor skill issue. In just her first Paralympic games in Vancouver the German took home the silver in the giant slalom race to make her first of many appearances on the podium. What I found incredible about Andrea’s story is the drastic improvement she was able to make in less than a year. When the International Paralympic Championships (IPC) took place in 2011, Andrea took gold in the slalom and downhill slalom in addition to three other medals of silver and bronze. In Sochi, Andrea looks to get revenge on Marie Bochet of France who was able to out ski her this year at the IPC event where she swept the stage with gold medals.

One athlete that I am extremely honored to discuss is Steve Cash of the United States of America. While he has an amazing athletic resume at the age of 24, I really admired his dedication to pursing his degree in business. After my previous interview with Nick Springer, I felt that the sport of Ice Sledge Hockey deserved to have one of their stars featured on our blog. As an amputee, Cash was determined to maintain his competitive spirit as he has been a part of this team since the age of 15! Cash joined Jeremy Campbell (who we have all discussed before), as an ESPY award winner for best male athlete with a disability. After his performance in the 2010 Vancouver games, Cash was certainly deserving of the award where he set a Paralympic record by stopping every shot he faced in five games to lead team U.S.A. to a gold medal. At the 2013 IPC event the team fell short taking silver after they had won gold just the year before. There is no doubt that Cash should be at the top of this game come Sochi to be the leading man behind the mask and bring home another gold.

The phrase “O to be young again…” has absolutely nothing on Sonja Gaudet of Canada. This 47 year old wife and mother has not let her age or wheelchair stop her from excelling. As an athlete who competed in just about every sport throughout her life, Sonja found a deep passion for wheelchair curling. Sonja recently took home the gold in the World Wheelchair Curling Championships for 2013 and looks to take home her third straight gold medal at the games in Sochi. Curling is extremely popular in Canada and Sonja was announced the first wheelchair athlete from her country to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be to train and excel at the level that Sonja does and still manage to run a household!

I truly commend each one of these athletes for their individual accomplishments and am very excited to see how they do in Sochi 2014!

By: Erika Schmid

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Let the Games Begin!

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With the 2014 Winter Paralympic games in Sochi Russia rapidly approaching, I think it is about time to start getting people excited for what to expect! To start out I think it is essential for everyone to be aware that this year the games will begin on March 7th and end on March 16th. There will be nearly 700 hundred Paralympic athletes competing over the nine days of competition and 72 sets of medals waiting to be earned.

While the Winter Paralympic games are not nearly as large as the Summer, they are still equally incredible to witness and stay informed on. The competitions are broken down into five categories including Alpine Skiing, Biathlon, Cross Country Skiing, Ice Sledge Hockey and Wheelchair curling. This year the games are anticipating the debut of snowboarding which will be under the alpine skiing category. I think the most impressive aspect about these games is the speed and balance that is involved in some of these sports. Watching people who have trained for weeks and months be able to accomplish such dangerous sports is something that I truly commend each and every one of these athletes for. A lot of people (including myself), are afraid when they ski or snowboard due to the speed they gain and feeling of losing control; when I watched these athletes in video there was no sign of fear , instead nothing but pure determination

The Olympic Park in Sochi is also representing a first. This park is the first one since the Paralympics and Olympics have co-existed where the facilities are the same for both groups. Sochi Olympic Park is the most compact park that has ever been built and was specifically designed to consider the needs for the disabled. I have previously discussed the need for there to be more equality for the Paralympics and I believe this is a great step in the right direction. The athletes competing not only get to enjoy the same facilities but now have the convenience of easier access and mobility throughout the park. I cannot speak on the Paralympians behalf, but I can only imagine what a difference it must make from a physical standpoint for everything to be just a little bit closer. Olympic Park will also be able to hold over 70,000 visitors at a time to first hand witness records being broken, historical moments and intense battles to get on the podium.

What has made Sochi so accessible is the split between venues being held between two clusters. There are both coastal and mountain venues that have been designated as the select areas for particular sports to take place. The coastal venue includes more level facilities such as an ice dome, arena, and curling center while the mountain venue will host all skiing , bobsled, and downhill sports. The two are only separated by roughly thirty minutes to make travel easier on all spectators and each contains an Olympic village of their own.

The Sochi 2014 games should be incredible from a sports perspective but I believe it is going to make a big mark for the Paralympics. I think this year’s winter games will be making a statement that the Paralympics deserve to be considered more in the process of putting the games together. At the end of the day these athletes are also representing their country and deserve to be treated with equal respect and consideration. We have less than five months to go before skiers hit the slopes and skaters hit the ice, be a part of history and start thinking about the 2014 Paralympic games in Sochi!

To check out some more information on Sochi 2014 check out the following link!

http://www.sochi2014.com/en/games/places/objects/sea/

AND

Be sure to check out some of the U.S. slope starts

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w04wU46XwRk

Erika Schmid