On Dec. 1, the Canadian Paralympic Committee started a 100-day countdown to the start of the 2006 Winter Paralympic Games, which run from March 10 to 19.
Canada will be sending 35 athletes in all five disciplines; sledge hockey, alpine skiing, Nordic skiing, biathlon and Wheelchair curling. The final rosters will be announced in late February.
The teams will be supported by another 35 coaches, mission and medical staff.
With more than three months to prepare, our national teams are already active this season.
The sledge hockey team has already competed in its first tournament in Germany, taking first place after wins against Germany, Norway and the U.S. They also won all three exhibition games against the U.S. in an October series.
In addition to playing several exhibition games in the lead up to the Paralympics, the teams will play in a pre-Paralympic seeding tournament.
The national disabled cross-country team was also selected with a roster of just six athletes, but more will be able to qualify over the course of the season through World Cups, Nor Ams, the national championships and other qualifiers.
There was already a World Cup qualifier held at Sovereign Lake Ski Club in Vernon on Nov. 25. Whistler’s Tyler Mosher won the men’s standing 5 km event, which will increase his chances of representing Canada in Torino this March. His goal is to ski for Canada in 2010.
In biathlon, Biathlon Canada is looking to build its roster. The team currently includes just four athletes, all of whom also compete in the Nordic events. Cross Country Canada and Biathlon Canada will be working with clubs and provincial organizations to increase the number of competitors this season to try and get more athletes for Torino.
There is also a nationally funded program in place by the Canadian Paralympic Committee for 2010, modeled after the Canadian Olympic Committee’s Own The Podium program, that will increase participation.
The Canadian Disabled Alpine Ski Team headed to Europe at the beginning of the month to take part in upcoming Europa Cup races before the World Cup season gets underway. The goal is to win four Paralympic medals this year.
There have been a few major changes to Paralympic alpine racing. The International Paralympic Committee has gotten rid of 18 categories, and will run skiers, male and female, in just three categories – sitting, standing and blind. The different categories will take the factor system into account, where a number is applied to each athlete and their overall time that corresponds to the level of a skier’s disability.
The alpine contingent at the Paralympic Games is the largest, with 72 different competitions taking place. Canada’s goal is to have contenders in every competition.
The team includes 10 senior athletes and seven development athletes. All of the senior athletes have already qualified for the Paralympics.
The Senior Women’s team includes Arly Fogarty, Lauren Woolstencroft and Kimberley Jones, while the men’s team includes Jeff Dickson, Scott Paterson, Jeff Penner, Chris Williamson and five athletes that train in Whistler – Matthew Hallat, Scott Paterson, Bobby Taylor, Daniel Wesley and Brad Lennea, who also calls Whistler home.
The development team includes Andrea Dziewior, Kathleen Forestall, Emily Glossop, Gabriel Perreault, Morgan Perrin and Steven Wall.
Their first competition is this weekend, a Europa Cup giant slalom and super-G in Germany Dec. 9-11.
As for the wheelchair curling team, the national team was third at the recent world championships, behind Scotland and Switzerland.
The team is based at the Richmond Curling Club, and won the last national wheelchair curling championship. They have several international bonspiels leading up to the Winter Games to hone their skills.
For more information on Canada’s Paralympic prospects, visit www.paralympic.ca.