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McKeevers net Canada’s first Paralympic gold, Woolstencroft the second

Weather disrupts alpine race schedule, but Canadians adjust



The weather forecast for Whistler last week was eerily accurate and nothing but bad news for the volunteers keeping Franz's Run in shape for the Paralympic alpine events.

Everyone got one downhill training run - some of the athletes getting theirs Saturday morning - but in the end Saturday's downhill event was cancelled when fog rolled in and blanked out the course. With skiers pushing 120 km/h in training organizers had no choice but to postpone the downhill event and refund tickets for nearly 6,000 spectators who turned out to the sold-out race.

Given snow in the forecast through the week, organizers made the decision to run the technical events first starting with the slalom on Sunday and Monday and the giant slalom on Tuesday and Wednesday. The downhill is now scheduled for Thursday, the super G Friday and Saturday and the super combined on Sunday.

The change of plans was no issue for the Canadian team, which earned four medals in the slalom.

The first Canadian skiers on the podium were Viviane Forest, a visually impaired skier, and her guide Lindsay Debou. They earned a silver medal, finishing behind Sabine Gasteiger and guide Stefan Schoner of Austria, and ahead of Jessica Gallagher and guide Eric Bickerton of Australia.

Forest is still recovering from a groin pull sustained in a crash in training a few weeks ago and had a difficult time with the slalom.

"I think I was just trying to dig deep and not focus on the pain as I tried to make my way down," she said. "The last section I was in so much pain I was afraid I would miss a gate or something. But I finished and it went well."

This is Forest's third Paralympic Games, but only her first Winter Games. She represented Canada in the Summer Games twice in the sport of goalball, a kind of soccer played by visually-impaired athletes where they use hearing to shoot and block balls.

It was luck that she was paired with guide Lindsay Debou a year ago. Debou's regular skier was injured just as Forest's guide pulled out to start a family. The two were put together just days before last year's world championships.

"I think we had three days of training for our first race together and then we were on the podium," said Debou, who lives in Whistler.

The highlight for the two skiers was the crowd of over 4,000, which they could hear at the start gate.

"It was pretty special to get to the start zone and hear the crowd," said Forest. "I think we both started to stress a bit, but we looked at each other and said 'breathe in, let's have fun and just do it.'"

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