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August 7, 2016

Russian athletes banned from Rio Paralympics after doping scandle

Russian athletes banned from Rio Paralympics after doping scandle

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The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has confirmed the ban on all Russian athletes from the games in the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio today.

Paralympic logo

“The Russian Paralympic Committee will not be able to enter athletes into the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games”, IPC President Sir Philip Craven told a Rio de Janeiro press conference today. “It is our responsibility to ensure fair competition. That is vital to the integrity and credibility of Paralympic sport. I believe the Russian government has catastrophically failed its athletes. The medals over morals attitude disgusts me.” The international committee considered arguments from the Russian committee before confirming the ban.

This comes after the publication of the McLaren report, which described state-sponsored doping in the Russian team. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has also claimed the doping cover-up operation was sponsored by the state, with samples destroyed to eliminate evidence of doping. Drug test laboratory director turned whistleblower Dr Rodchenkov acknowledged the state security forces — in the words of the WADA report — “actively imposed an atmosphere of intimidation on laboratory process and staff”. He also claimed he was part of state-organised doping at the Sochi Winter Olympics, destroying urine samples and giving athletes banned drugs.

Russia has denied these allegations, Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko calling WADA’s doping report, when it first came out, “unverified sources, on unverified facts”. According to Russian news agency Tass, Mutko said Russia would appeal today’s IPC ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Russian gold medal winner Yuriy Borzakovskiy expressed scepticism of the allegations, saying “The report itself contains a lot of allegations but not many facts […] The pressure [to expel Russia from the Olympics] is very much political.”


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Paralympics bans Russian athletes from Rio Games after doping scandal

Paralympics bans Russian athletes from Rio Games after doping scandal

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Sunday, August 7, 2016

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The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) has confirmed the ban on all Russian athletes from the games in the 2016 Summer Paralympics in Rio today.

Paralympic logo

“The Russian Paralympic Committee will not be able to enter athletes into the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games”, IPC President Sir Philip Craven told a Rio de Janeiro press conference today. “It is our responsibility to ensure fair competition. That is vital to the integrity and credibility of Paralympic sport. I believe the Russian government has catastrophically failed its athletes. The medals over morals attitude disgusts me.” The international committee considered arguments from the Russian committee before confirming the ban.

This comes after the publication of the McLaren report, which described state-sponsored doping in the Russian team. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) has also claimed the doping cover-up operation was sponsored by the state, with samples destroyed to eliminate evidence of doping. Drug test laboratory director turned whistleblower Dr Rodchenkov acknowledged the state security forces — in the words of the WADA report — “actively imposed an atmosphere of intimidation on laboratory process and staff”. He also claimed he was part of state-organised doping at the Sochi Winter Olympics, destroying urine samples and giving athletes banned drugs.

Russia has denied these allegations, Russian sports minister Vitaly Mutko calling WADA’s doping report, when it first came out, “unverified sources, on unverified facts”. According to Russian news agency Tass, Mutko said Russia would appeal today’s IPC ruling to the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Russian gold medal winner Yuriy Borzakovskiy expressed scepticism of the allegations, saying “The report itself contains a lot of allegations but not many facts […] The pressure [to expel Russia from the Olympics] is very much political”.


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March 7, 2014

Ukrainian Paralympic Committee announces decision to compete at Games so their goal of peace will not be forgotten

Ukrainian Paralympic Committee announces decision to compete at Games so their goal of peace will not be forgotten

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Friday, March 7, 2014

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After the announcement the press conference venue was changed, the media surged towards the new location
Image: Illya K.

President of the Ukrainian Paralympic Committee Valeriy Sushkevich
Image: Illya K.

After the announcement the press conference venue was changed, the media surged towards the new location
Image: Illya K.

Sochi, Russia — At a press conference this afternoon in Sochi, the President of the Ukrainian Paralympic Committee, Valeriy Sushkevich, announced the Ukrainian Paralympic team would compete at this year’s Paralympics in Russia as a unified sovereign state.

He said the Ukrainian Paralympic team is very democratic, and reached this decision together. Their view is if they boycotted the Games, their message of peace would be forgotten in a few hours. While stating the team intends to compete, the Ukrainian team reserved the right to leave the Games immediately should peace not happen, and the Russian military does further intervention in the Ukraine.

Sushkevich, who is also a member of the Ukrainian Parliament, denied accusations their comments and decisions have been political in regards to the two hour delay for the team’s welcome to the Paralympic village, and actions taken during the welcome ceremony. Rather, he claimed these actions were motivated by a message of peace and human rights. He claimed the situation for Ukraine is unique. According to Sushkevich, never before during the Paralympic Games has the host country invaded a participating country. Suskevich talked about a discussion he had yesterday with Vladimir Putin, the leader of Russia, where Sushkevich talked to Putin as a member of the Paralympic family. He said he asked Putin for peace, for detente at least until the Paralympic Games are over. The response he received from Putin was that he was heard and Putin would think about what he said.

The President said that he views the achievements of the Paralympics above that of the Olympics, that the Paralympics play a vital role in the lives of the athletes. He said the 31 members of the Ukrainian team want to compete. There is a problem being the national team of the Ukraine, though, when the country is not whole. He later said the team has representatives from ten regions of the country, including the western Russian parts.

Further comments were made by Ukrainian Paralympic Committee President that in past few years, all of Ukraine’s Paralympians who were veterans of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. He hoped in the future, there would be peace and there would be no need to have veterans on the team who had disabilities that were a result of war.

Ukrainian biathlon competitor Grygorii Vovchynskyii also spoke during the press conference. He said Ukrainian Paralympians are part of a big family, and supporters ask them every day how they feel. According to Vovchynskyii, Ukrainian Paralympians want peace. They are ready to compete. They want to show they are a free and independent people who love fair competition.

At a press conference immediately following the Ukrainian one, IPC representative Craig Spence said IPC learned of Ukraine’s decision to compete at the same time as the media. He said he would prefer Ukraine competes but would understand if they decided to leave. Spence also said all 45 teams and all competing athletes were reminded there could be no alterations to their kits, and no protests. Everyone is bound by these rules, and the IPC is monitoring social media for athlete compliance.



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IPC President Sir Philip Craven says Paralympic Games should not be about politics

IPC President Sir Philip Craven says Paralympic Games should not be about politics

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Friday, March 7, 2014

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Sir Philip Craven at press conference earlier today
Image: Illya K.

Alexandra Kosterina at press conference earlier today
Image: Illya K.

Sochi, Russia — At a press conference today in the Main Press Center in Sochi, International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Sir Philip Craven repeatedly said the Paralympic Games should be about sports, not politics. Craven went on to say that much of the discussion about the politics of sport took place because the media had a void to fill before the start of sporting events, and he thought it would die down after the Games got under way.

Craven also remarked that it was better to create change from the inside, rather than the outside. In response to a question from a French journalist about the decision of French leaders not to attend the opening ceremonies tonight, Craven said he was disappointed for the athletes because the politicians were making a choice to make this about politics, and not about sport. Craven repeated the Games should be about sport. Craven said in response to another question it would be possible for the Ukrainians to boycott the opening ceremony

IPC Communications Director Craig Spence said that the Ukraine Paralympic Committee delayed their welcome ceremony into the Paralympic Village by two hours yesterday, and the IPC approved the decision. The story that the Ukrainians delayed their welcome ceremony as a political statement was one the IPC would investigate, and would largely be contingent upon what they said at the press conference the Ukrainians called for today at 1:30PM Sochi local time (0930 UTC). He said the world and the Paralympic movement is aware of the situation in the Ukraine, but the IPC needs to stay true to its mission.

Sir Philip Craven initially started his remarks at the press conference talking about the legacy of the Paralympic Games in terms of accessibility of sports in Sochi. He also talked about how he was excited for the Games to start.



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March 3, 2014

International Paralympic Committee comments on Russian adherence to Olympic Truce

International Paralympic Committee comments on Russian adherence to Olympic Truce

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Monday, March 3, 2014

The Olympic Truce wall at the 2012 Summer Paralympics
Image: P.Kurmelis.

In a response published Saturday by The Associated Press, the International Paralympic Committee commented on Russian adherence to the Olympic Truce in regards to the country’s actions in the Ukraine, saying “As with situations around the world, we hope a peaceful resolution can be found in the spirit of the Olympic Truce, which has covered the Paralympic Games since 2006. […] We want the story here to be the great festival of sport that has already taken place in Sochi and will continue now that athletes are arriving for the start of the Winter Paralympics.”

In the past few days, Russian troops entered the Ukrainian Crimea and took control of a number of strategic locations, including an airport and a regional parliament. Yesterday, Russian forces surrounded a Crimean Ukrainian military base.

While the Russian-hosted Olympic Games officially ended on February 23, the Olympic period officially concludes on March 16 at the closing ceremony for the 2014 Winter Paralympics.

The Olympic Truce and its extension to the Paralympic Games is recognized by the United Nations, who did so in A/65/270, para.7, an addition recognised by the United Nations General Assembly in August 2010.

The Crimea region of the Ukraine is located less than 500 kilometers (less than 300 miles) away from Sochi. The British Paralympic team have said they are continuing to monitor the situation, but has no current plans to make changes regarding their participation at the Games. The United States Paralympic team has said they haven’t made any changes to their plans in response to the situation.

Yesterday, the United Kingdom’s Prime Minister David Cameron said on Twitter, “Because of the serious situation in Ukraine, @WilliamJHague & I believe it would be wrong for UK Ministers to attend the Sochi Paralympics.”



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November 16, 2013

Wikinews interviews academic Simon Ličen about attitudes towards US Paralympics

Wikinews interviews academic Simon Ličen about attitudes towards US Paralympics

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Saturday, November 16, 2013

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A Russian stamp for Paralympic Games in Sochi in 2014
Image: Почта России/Russian Post.

On Thursday, with 110 days until the start of the 2014 Winter Paralympics in Sochi, Russia, Wikinews interviewed Assistant Professor in Educational Leadership, Sport Studies and Educational/Counseling Psychology at Washington State University Simon Ličen about attitudes in United States towards the Paralympics.

Licen has recently joined the Sport Management Program at Washington State University to develop its sport media and communication research and teaching contents. Originally from Slovenia, he served as the Director of Media and Communications of a WTA Tour event and was a member of the UNESCO Slovenian National Commission. He was also the Team Manager of the Slovenian wheelchair basketball national team.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png: Why do you think the Paralympic movement has so little visibility in the US compared to other countries like Australia, the United Kingdom and even Canada?

Simon Ličen: Sports in the United States largely reaffirm existing relations of power in society. It emphasizes consumerism, the belief that success always goes to people who merit it due to their abilities, dedication and qualifications, and reinforces, rather than changes, existing ideas related to gender, ethnicity and nationality. Paralympic sport brings attention to athletes who are typically overlooked in American society because the majority of the population does not want to identify with people who are disabled. Although disability is not contagious, interest in disabled sports might put into question the masculinity of the males following it. Disabled athletes also challenge existing relations of power by displaying dedication, hard work and perseverance in different contexts than those most sports fans are accustomed to.
Other countries, including the ones you mention, have stronger social orientations in all aspects of society. Even though legislative support may be less strong than the one provided by the Americans with Disabilities Act, many social institutions including the media are more receptive to this form of diversity.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: What do you think the impact will be for the Paralympic movement will be with the Games being televised live in the United States for first time?

Simon Ličen: The impact depends on a number of aspects. One of them is the channels that NBC as the broadcasting rights owner for the United States will use to air the Paralympic Games on. Will they be shown nationally or regionally, on NBC or on any of the company’s multiple cable networks? A second aspect is the parts or hours of the day the Paralympics will be shown. Remember that there is a nine-hour difference between Sochi and New York, and a 12-hour difference between Sochi and the US West Coast. So daytime events will be shown live in the United States in the middle of the night, and evening prime-time events will be shown — indeed live — in the morning U.S. time. So showing the Paralympics live on United States television might turn out to be less glamorous than it appears. A third important factor is the way the event will be mediated: will NBC have its best sports broadcasters following the event after having worked the Winter Olympics? Will they treat and announce the competitions as they do all others — for better and worse? Will they take it as an opportunity to educate viewers about disability and diversity while showing superb athletic performances without engaging in a discourse of pity? All in all, I think this is a terrific opportunity to improve sports coverage in a multitude of aspects; but we will have to wait until after the event to assess to what extent the broadcasters will meet these expectations.

USA skier Ralph Green last year at the 2012 IPC NorAm Cup.
Image: Bidgee.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: What role should the media be playing in promoting the Paralympic Games? Why does the US media provide so little coverage of the Paralympics compared to other sports?

Simon Ličen: I don’t think the media should be promoting any sports event. I think the role of the media is to inform about the event and to cover it fairly. It is not just the Paralympic Games, or disable sports in general that yield very little media coverage; a recent study has shown that women’s sports only account for 1.3%–1.6% of televised news media. The situation improves considerably during the Olympic Games and prime-time Olympic coverage comes close to equal coverage of both men’s and women’s sport. Outside of that, however, U.S. media coverage is largely limited to the men’s four major leagues, college football and college basketball. Again, the media decide which sports to cover based on their perceived entertainment value and its potential of generating sponsor revenues. The Paralympic Games are complex to understand and its participants hard to identify with because there are less instances of dominating performances and long-standing rivalries, which are concepts that are understandable even to the casual fan.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: What role does the fact that the Paralympics are about people with disability competing at sport play in the American public’s reception of the Paralympics?

Simon Ličen: I would speculate that the American public is largely indifferent to the event as it is currently represented in the media. The majority of people are oblivious of the Paralympic Games. They might greet an American medal winner as this would reaffirm the success, supremacy and tenacity of an American representative in a global field. In more general terms, however, the American public chooses to largely overlook disabled sports as the average able-bodied person likely does not want to be represented by, and thus identify with, a disabled person.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: Is the fact the US Olympic Committee is the national Paralympic Committee a hinderance or help in the development of the Paralympic movement in the US?

Simon Ličen: In general terms, this is both an opportunity and a risk: it can activate its sizable financial, promotional and media influence to bring attention to the Paralympic movement, but at the same time might choose to push disabled sports to the side in order to accommodate influential sponsors. I am not familiar with the specific work done by the US Olympic Committee in terms of supporting, popularizing and expanding the Paralympic movement so I cannot speculate which way the actual work done by the USOC sways.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: What conditions need to exist in the US for Paralympic athletes to get sponsorship similar to their Olympic counterparts?

Simon Ličen: Sport sponsorships are indeed strongly influenced by the media prominence of competing individuals. Individual disabled athletes have already been able to secure profitable sponsorship and endorsement contracts; perhaps the most notable example is Oscar Pistorius who was in this sense a true groundbreaker before falling off the pedestal due to his pending trial. This is even more true when one considers that not all Olympic athletes are able to secure profitable or even exaggerated contacts: an Olympic archery champion is less appealing than an Olympic champion javelin thrower, a female javelin thrower is less appealing than a male sprinter, and a Jamaican champion sprinter is less appealing than an American elite basketball player. Sporadic media appearances, such as those during the Paralympic fortnight, will hardly suffice to land disabled athletes major contracts; an athlete has to be in the constant media and popular spotlights to secure lucrative contracts. Until Paralympic athletes […] [are] able to achieve that kind of media presence, high sponsorships are likely to elude them.

USA skier Andrew Earl Kurka at the 2012 IPC NorAm Cup
Image: Bidgee.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: Many countries provide federal money to support their Olympic and Paralympic athletes. Should the US consider this as a way of increasing visibility for the Paralympics, supporting increased opportunities for people with disabilities and increasing the US Paralympic medal count?

Simon Ličen: Focusing on the US medal count will successfully keep the Paralympic Games away from mainstream attention! A focus on the medal count as a means to establish supremacy is typical for American professional sports, and the Paralympics will never be able to beat the Olympic Games or the major leagues at their game. This is why the Paralympic Games should involve a different narrative.
Countries typically allocate governmental support to the more vulnerable groups in society because those who are strong can protect their interests through their vast financial and social means. In this sense, the United States should support participation in the Paralympic Games to promote adaptive sports in general and thus increase sports participation among people with disabilities. People with disabilities are among those who most benefit from participating in sports and physical activity due to their health and social advantage; however, they also have much fewer opportunities for sport participation and often require expensive adapted sports equipment. Public funds should contribute to their sport activity in general, and federal funding of Paralympic athletes could certainly provide an excellent example for local communities. Unfortunately, I fear that even the most progressive congresswomen and congressmen will be [reluctant] to increase that funding given the current federal budgetary situation.



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March 1, 2013

Australia\’s Mitchell Gourley finishes up at IPC Alpine World Championships

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Friday, March 1, 2013

With Australia not having a team compete at Wednesday’s IPC Alpine World Championships in La Molina, Spain, Mitchell Gourley finished his turn at the competition where the 2010 Winter Paralympian failed to earn a single medal.

On the first day of competition, Gourley finished tied in thirteenth place with Swiss skier Thomas Pfyl in the downhill with a time of 1:36.40, 6.66 seconds off the winning time set by Austria‘s Markus Salcher. In the Super-G event on the second day of competition, Gourley finished in eleventh place with a time of 1:16.90 seconds, 4.41 seconds behind winner Salcher. On the third competition day, Gourley earned an eighth place finish in the Slalom with a combined run time of 2:09.66, 3.37 seconds slower than seventh place finisher Andrzej Szczesny of Poland and 13.81 seconds behind winner Vincent Gauthier-Manuel of France. 28 skiers started the Slalom event but only 13 managed to place. Gourley had his best finish in the Super Combined event where he finished in fifth position with a combined run time of 1:45.34, 0.15 seconds slower than fourth place finisher Russian Alexandr Alyabyev and 2.90 seconds slower than Austrian winner Matthias Lanzinger. On the last day of competition, Gourley successfully finished his first run in the Giant Slalom but finished with a Did Not Finish as a result of his second run. Gourley is next set to compete at the Sochi Test event.

Gourley was the only Australian competitor at the Championships. His Australian teammates, including Jessica Gallagher, Melissa Perrine, Toby Kane, and Cameron Rahles Rahbula, missed the Championships either because they needed a small break from this season’s competition schedule or to give themselves additional time to train for the Sochi Test event coming up next month.

2013 IPC Alpine World Championships at La Molina in Spain. Day 3 of competition. Slalom final. Mitchell Gourley of Australia
Image: Laura Hale.

Mitchell Gourley of Australia talking to a race official following his run in the Super Combined
Image: Laura Hale.

Mitchell Gourley of Australia. 2013 IPC Alpine World Championships at La Molina in Spain. Day 2 of competition. Super-G final.
Image: Laura Hale.

Super G competition day at the 2013 IPC World Championships in La Molina, Spain. Mitchell Gourley riding a bike.
Image: Laura Hale.



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February 28, 2013

Austria wins friendly team competition at the end of the IPC Alpine World Championships

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Thursday, February 28, 2013

The IPC Alpine World Championships wrapped up yesterday in La Molina, Spain with a friendly, non-medal counting team event won by Austria. The winner was tabulated based on the fastest score for a visually impaired skier on the team, a female skier on the team and a male skier on the team. The Austrian team included Markus Salchet, Roman Rabl and Claudia Loesch for times counted, with Philipp Bonadimann, Thomas Grochar and Martin Wuerz also competing. The team event included ten teams representing eight countries, with the United States and Canada having two teams each and 54 skiers competing.

The United States team 1 came in second with Tayler Walker, Markus Bathum and Alana Nichols times counting, and Heath Calhoun, Ralph Green and Allison Jones also belonging to the team. Russia came in second with Ivan Frantseva, Alexandr Alyabyev and Mariya Papulova having their scores counted. Hosts Spain finished last with Jon Santacana, Óscar Espallargas and Úrsula Pueyo having their times counting, and Gabriel Gorce and Nathalie Carpanedo also members of the Spanish team.

The next major competition ahead of the 2014 Winter Paralympics is the test event in Sochi, Russia in March of this year.

Thomas Grochar on his run
Image: Laura Hale.

Solene Jambaque of France on her run
Image: Laura Hale.

Marie Bochet, five IPC Alpine World Championships gold medal winning skiing, on her run
Image: Laura Hale.

Canadian visually impaired skier Viviane Forest and Chloe and her guide Lauzon-Gauthier on their run
Image: Laura Hale.

Austrian skier Roman Rabl
Image: Laura Hale.

Gabriel Gorce and his guide on their run for Spain
Image: Laura Hale.

Visually impaired Canadian skier Mac Marcoux and guide BJ Marcoux experience problems on their run
Image: Laura Hale.

Stephani Victor skis for Team USA 2
Image: Laura Hale.

Martin France skis for Slovakia
Image: Laura Hale.

Jon Santacana and Miguel Galindo ski for Spain
Image: Laura Hale.

Braydon Luscombe of Canada
Image: Laura Hale.

Allison Jones of the United States for Team USA 1
Image: Laura Hale.

Fredric Francois of France
Image: Laura Hale.



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February 26, 2013

Austria regains medal leadboard after fourth competition day of 2013 IPC Alpine World Championships

Austria regains medal leadboard after fourth competition day of 2013 IPC Alpine World Championships

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Philipp Bonadimann of Austria at the end of his first run in the Super Combined event
Image: Laura Hale.

Yesterday, following the Super Combined event at the 2013 IPC Alpine World Championships, Austria took the lead again in the medal count having earned six total gold medals across four days of competition. France is tied with Austria in the overall medal count.

Austria’s medal tally yesterday included a gold by LW11 classified Claudia Loesch in the women’s sitting event, a gold by LW4 classified Matthias Lanzinger in the men’s standing event, and a bronze by LW11 classified Philipp Bonadimann in the men’s sitting event.

Following her gold medal winning, Loesch told the media she was super happy she won, and she had a really good slalom run. She went on to say she usually finishes in second and this was a surprise for her.

France’s medal count increased with a gold by LW6/8-2 Marie Bochet in the women’s standing, and a bronze by LW4 classified Cedric Amafroi-Broisat in the men’s standing.

Spain’s vision impaired skier Jon Santacana, who won Spain’s only two medals in the competition, failed to finish his second run in the Super Combined. Following the race, he was visibly upset. He had finished the first run in first place by a tenth of a second ahead of eventual gold medalist Chris Williamson and guide Robin Femy of Canada. Williamson hugged silver medalist Miroslav Haraus of Slovakia, and Santacana when Santacana and guide Miguel Galindo Garcés returned to the finishing area after Santacana’s fall. Spain’s other entrant in the men’s visually impaired Super Combined event, Gabriel Gorce and guide Arnau Ferrer, finished three thousandths of a second out of medal contention with a combined run time of 1:47.93. The bronze medalist, Ivan Frantseva and guide German Agranovskii‎ of Russia, had a combined run time of 1:47.90.

At the finish of each competitor’s second run, most are requested to go to doping control to insure they are not taking any banned substance. The 2013 IPC Alpine World Championships are scheduled to continue today.

Rank Country Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 Flag of Austria.png AUT 6 1 3 10
2 Flag of France.png FRA 5 2 3 10
3 Flag of Russia.png RUS 3 3 3 9
4 Flag of Germany.svg GER 2 5 2 9
5 Flag of Slovakia.png SVK 2 2 1 5
5 Flag of Japan (geometric).png JPN 2 2 1 5
7 Flag of Spain.svg ESP 2 0 0 2
8 Flag of Canada.png CAN 1 3 5 9
9 Flag of the United States.png USA 1 1 1 3
10 Flag of Switzerland.svg SUI 0 2 2 4
10 Flag of Great Britain with border.png GBR 0 2 2 4
12 Flag of Italy.png ITA 0 1 0 1
13 Flag of New Zealand.png NZL 0 0 1 1



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Wikinews interviews Irene Villa

Wikinews interviews Irene Villa – Wikinews, the free news source

Wikinews interviews Irene Villa

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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Irene Villa after the interview with the Wikinews reporters.
Image: Raystorm.

Yesterday evening in La Molina, Spain, Wikinews sat down and talked with Irene Villa to discuss para-alpine skiing, disability sport, women’s sport, and her own sporting career. Villa was in town as part of activities taking place around the 2013 IPC Alpine World Championships, where one of her skiing club teammates is competing as a member of the Spanish team. Her high profile in Spain has brought additional interest to para-alpine skiing and disability sport in general.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWikinewsWikinews waves Right.png: Hi we are interviewing Irene Villa, who is a disability skier from Spain and professional author, social figure, journalist, and psychologist. You are most well known for being a terrorist survivor, but you’re here because of the [2013 Alpine Skiing] World Championships.((es))

Irene Villa: I’m here because I love sitting ski, I practice and I compete, but since I got pregnant and my son was born I stopped competing. But before I had my son I competed against the people who will run tomorrow, the Germans who win, and I wanted to be here. I haven’t raced in the World Cup, but I did race in the European Cup. And well, I’m also here to support paralympic sports.((es))

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: In 2009 you said you were trying to make the 2010 Winter Paralympics. After giving birth are you going to continue with the sport and hope to make 2018?((es))

Irene Villa: I would love to. The thing is that you need a certain amount of IPCAS points. I’m now competing, on top of that I have an injury, tomorrow and the next day I will be training, and I don’t know if I’ll have enough time to make it. Sochi [Winter Paralympic Games of 2014] is right around the corner, next year, so it depends on how many point you’ve got. 2018? For sure.((es))

Listen to the interview.
Audio: Laura Hale.

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: You compete in a lot of national competitions, and with disability sport in general, classification is a big issue. Competing in national competitions, does classification come into play, especially when there is so few women skiers in your group?((es))

Irene Villa: Yes, certainly. You see, I have an advantage because I have buttocks, I have abs. I have an advantage over a teammate who has a spinal injury here [points to the high part of the back] and also competes. So of course classification is very important because we cannot have an advantage. I believe in competing in equal fairness, and disabilities vary so much that you need a good classification. Issues because of classification? Well, I think we are pretty well classified. For example, my fingers [shows hand where she lost three fingers] are not taken into account in classification, there’s always going to be a small detail that they don’t count. This is a disadvantage when holding the outrigger, and yet I’m classified like someone who is missing half a leg, for example. I’m missing both legs and three fingers. But, it’s really complicated to finetune it… Because then we would need to have twenty thousand classifications. This is what we have.((es))

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: Some of the skiers I’ve talked to in the mens’ side, not in Spain, but from other countries, have complained about the quality of womens’ skiing, and that there’s not enough high quality competition. That’s why I was interested in if classification was impacting women’s skiing because there is so few women skiers, that classes seem they’d make it harder to find competitors in classes that are making the sport equitable and fair.((es))

Irene Villa: Of course. In the case of the women, it is really hard to get a woman skiing, to have her compete in sit-ski. In fact, in Spain we exist thanks to Fundación También, which insisted in there being a female category. There was no female category, no women who dared. And we’re the same who started out in 2007. There has been no new blood because women don’t dare, because it is a tough sport, that requires sponsors —that do not exist—, or your own money, and it also demands courage and withstanding bad moments. I’ve suffered cold and injuries, and had some really tough times. You take away the best with you, but it is very hard, and men resist the cold better.((es))

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: Your personal experiences have adequately prepared you to hurl yourself down the mountain at high speed? ((es))

Irene Villa: At the beginning, it was very scary. The first times were very hard: falls, injuries… I even dislocated my vertebra and got a prothesis for the neck because of a hernia, one teammate broke her clavicle, another her femur… It has a lot of risks, but the truth is, speed hooks you! Once you learn to plant the ski pole, angle yourself, learn the position you must use, which is like a motorcycle rider’s, once you see you can run a lot and not fall, speed is addictive and you want to go faster.((es))

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: Most of the ski team looks like they come from the Madrid area? From the Fundación También?((es))

Irene Villa: In my team we are from everywhere in Spain. Even Nathalie Carpanedo is from France.((es))

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: How does a Frenchwoman become a Spanish skier?((es))

Irene Villa: Because she lives in Madrid. She has the Spanish nationality. Then we have another woman from the South of Spain, in Andalusia, from Tarragona in Catalonia, from Galicia… We are from all parts of Spain.((es))

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: So there’s a national ski culture. People think of Spain as a place with beaches and no snow.((es))

Irene Villa: There’s not too much tradition of paralympic skiing, to be true. There’s less. But we do have Sierra Nevada and the Pyrenees.((es))

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: The Paralympics in Spain are supported by the Plan ADO Paralímpico. Do they provide enough support to women and to winter sports in general?((es))

Irene Villa: The people in the national squad, like Úrsula Pueyo, would know that. If Plan ADO helps someone, it’s the people in the national team, those who dedicate their lives to the sport. They offered it to me when I was at my peak, in 2010, when I won my first gold medals and wasn’t yet married. They offered me to move to Baqueira, where Úrsula lives, with Nathalie, and with a Catalan girl too, but I declined, because when you have a life, a daily job, events, conferences, travels…. you can’t leave it all for the sport. But I think the Plan does help the people who dedicate themselves to the sport, like Úrsula.((es))

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: When I’ve read about disability skiing in Spain for women, they talk about you and they talk about Teresa Silva. Is there a way to get more attention for women skiers on that level, outside of using you and Teresa Silva as a vehicle? Not that you are not great for drawing attention! But how do you draw more attention to women’s sports and high quality that women are capable of doing?((es))

Irene Villa: Oh, I would like that more people would join this sport or any other disability sport, that they practised it. And what we do is try to encourage them through the media, interviews, conferences… Teresa is the director of Fundación También, and she has access to talk with many people. As a speaker in motivation conferences and the like, I make people aware of it too. But it is difficult, because people try it out and love it, but will not race. Because racing is very risky and, well, you saw the slopes yesterday, sometimes they are hard, like a wall, and falling can be awful. But when we get the chance, we promote the sport and try to attract people that way, encouraging them to join this adventure that is sport.((es))

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: As an outsider from, not Spain, I know you are a political figure. Has that gotten in the way of your ability to be a sportswoman? ((es))

Irene Villa: No… Besides, that part about me being a political figure… I have nothing to do with politics. I don’t know why people always… Why? Because of what happened to me. I was a kid. A 12 year old has nothing to do with politics. We know too that ETA has attacked people who had nothing to do with politics as well. My mother was a police director. What may have interfered is the fact that since I was a known figure I’ve tried that other people…. Let’s see, for example I started doing sport so other people would know you could do sport. So it is true that the fact of being known has pushed me to do more things that I would’ve probably not have done. Because I wanted to show people that you could ski. And I ended up hooked. I only did it for a tv reportage. “Okay okay, a reportage and let’s have people know that yes, we can”. In fact, my book is titled “Knowing that you can” [Saber que se puede, in Spanish]. Later I got hooked. But the fact of being known motivates you to show other people a path that could be very beneficial to them, and at the end you get addicted to it.((es))

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: When all is said and done, what do you kind of want your legacy to be? Do you want to be known as Irene Villa, disability sport advocate figure? Do you want to be known like Jon Santacana, or do you want to be known as somebody who has pushed the boundaries in other areas? ((es))

Irene Villa: As something more. I’d like my testimony to go beyond sport, which is what I try to do around the world, besides telling people you can do it. It’s about the capacity of a person to make herself, to be happy, to overcome resentment, to love herself, and to love others. I think that is the most important thing. And that’s the basis. I think sport is something that completes your life, mentally and physically. It’s very important. But my message is forgiveness, happiness and hope.((es))

Wikinews waves Left.pngWNWikinews waves Right.png: Thank you very much!((es))



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Sources

Wikinews
This exclusive interview features first-hand journalism by a Wikinews reporter. See the collaboration page for more details.
Wikinews
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