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Paralympic team claims 13 medals, sixth in standings

Canadians ‘probably the most successful team, relative to our size’

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Canada had some good luck and some bad luck at the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games in Torino, Italy last week, and finished sixth among nations with a relatively small delegation of just 33 athletes – including 11 alpine skiers, a 15-member sledge hockey team, a four member wheelchair curling team, and a handful of cross-country skiers.

"We’re a small team, but for our size we’re extremely competitive," said Canadian Paralympic Committee president Henry Wohler. "Of course we’re looking to increase the size of our team, but right now, relative to our size, we’re probably the most successful team out there."

The Paralympics ran from March 10 to 19, with almost 500 athletes representing 39 nations in five disciplines – alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, biathlon, ice sledge hockey and wheelchair curling, a new sport that was added to the program this year.

The big Canadian winner this year was visually impaired skier Brian McKeever and his guide/brother Robin McKeever. Brian McKeever won gold in the 5 km and 10 km freestyle cross-country events, a silver in the 20 km classic, and a bronze in the men’s 7.5 km biathlon – an event he was not expected to podium in because of his shooting abilities.

Next on the list was Vancouver’s Lauren Woolstencroft, who earned a gold in the standing giant slalom, a silver in the super-G, and was fourth in the downhill. She was on pace to earn a podium in the slalom as well, with the fastest first run of the morning, but went off course in the afternoon to wind up with a DNF.

Chris Williamson, a visually impaired alpine skier, and his guide Bobby Taylor also won two medals, a bronze in the downhill and a silver in super G. Williamson’s goal was to earn medals in all four disciplines but he fractured his shin in giant slalom training.

The only other athlete to win two medals was cross-country sit skier Colette Bourgonje, who won bronze in the women’s 5 km and 10 km.

The individual medal winners were rookie alpine sit skier Kimberley Joines of Edmonton, who also added a bronze medal in the super G, and the gold medal ice sledge hockey and wheelchair curling teams.

The ice sledge hockey team beat Norway 5-0 before a crowd of over 4,000 spectators on the last Saturday of the Paralympics. Most Canadians didn’t see the game live unless they tuned into the online broadcast offered by the International Paralympic Committee as CBC made the decision not to broadcast the final live.

The wheelchair curling team defeated Great Britain 7-4 in the final game, largely because of the scary accuracy of team skip Chris Daw who turned several losing ends into winning ends.

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