By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer
Athletes who have overcome physical disabilities like limited eyesight and missing limbs competed this week in the Paralympic Winter Games, after the event kicked off in Sochi, Russia on March 7. Going head-to-head in games like ice sledge hockey, wheelchair curling, biathlon, cross-country skiing, and alpine skiing, Olympians from around the world battled for their country’s pride.
As of Friday, Russia led the overall medals race with 64 total and 25 gold, the Ukraine followed in 2nd place with 20 total and 5 gold, the USA was in 3rd with 16 total and 1 gold, while Germany and Canada were tied for 4th with 11 total. Germany is in 2nd place for the gold medals count at 7.
Alpine skiing champions were crowned in the disability categories of visually impaired, standing, and sitting athletes (who can cruise down the mountain on modified sit-skis to overcome leg disabilities). Among the standing athletes, Russia’s 16-year-old Alexey Bugaev took the gold, while Japan’s Takeshi Suzuki won first place in the sitting category. Valerii Redkozubov, who often sports a stylish black eyepatch, scored a gold for Russia in the visually impaired competition.
Then, in the super combined race that includes slalom, super-G, and downhill events, Alexandra Frantceva of Russia won the women’s gold for visually impaired athletes, France’s Marie Bouchet won gold in the standing category, and Germany’s Anna Shaffelhuber landed a mega victory by 5.56 seconds (which is actually a long lead) to become a 4-time champion at the Paralympic Winter Games.
Several biathlon races recently came to a head, in an event that features a mix of skiing and rifle shooting. For those athletes who are blind or visually impaired, the rifles come equipped with high-tech “electro-acoustic” glasses that create sounds to help them aim via hearing. The Russian biathletes definitely ruled the roost, taking gold medals home in women’s 12.5km and men’s 15km.
Roman Petushkov’s perfecting shooting and insane speeds in his final lap took him past USA’s Andrew Soule by about 2 minutes, while Svetlana Konovalova sealed the gold quickly after her expert shooting in the first round. Among the visually impaired, Russia’s Mikhalina Lysova won women’s 10km and Vitaliy Lukyanenko of the Ukraine rocked the men’s 12.5km. Alena Kaufman took 2 gold medals for women’s 6km and 10km standing, as well as the silver in the 12.5km.
Para-snowboarding took place for the first time in Paralympic history on Friday, with Dutch athlete Bibian Mentel-Spee landing the gold in the women’s competition and American para-snowboarder Evan Strong taking the top h0nor for the men’s program.
As for ice sledge hockey, Russia beat Norway and the USA defeated Canada during the semifinals on Thursday, setting up an epic gold medal showdown game on Sunday, March 15 between the two winners. Norway and Canada, meanwhile, will duke it out in the bronze medal game.
Images courtesy of Sochi 2014.