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Whistler’s Ludbrook to carry flag at Paralympics



Just as his former ski coach was asked to carry the Canadian flag at the Paralympic Games in 1992, Whistler local Mark Ludbrook has been given the same honour in Salt Lake City.

"It's a big privilege," said Phil Chew, the head coach of the B.C. Disabled Ski Team who trained Ludbrook in Whistler during the mid-90s.

"It's pretty exciting."

Chew carried the Canadian flag in his last Paralympic Games, at Albertville, France.

Since retiring as a racer from the national team he has been coaching other Paralympic hopefuls in Whistler.

Of the nine alpine skiers on the current national team, four have come from the B.C. team under Chew's guidance. Including Ludbrook, those other members are Scott Patterson, Gord Tuck and Daniel Wesley, who will all be competing in Salt Lake City this week.

Ludbrook is perhaps better known in the local community as "Luddy" of the Ski Bums film fame.

He was not available for comment this week as he prepared for his first event on Saturday, the men's downhill.

But his wife Sara Ludbrook, who is joining him in Utah this week said: "He is obviously stoked about being the flag holder."

Leading up to the Games in Salt Lake, some of the alpine skiers have spent the past week in Kimberley at the Disabled World Cup.

Ludbrook came third in the super G at the World Cup.

"That's really boosted his confidence," said Sara.

Chew, who is not going to Salt Lake City, said anything can happen at the Olympics.

"He's trying to gear himself up to peak out at the Olympics," he said.

"This is the one to go for. He's in a very, very competitive class."

Ludbrook will be competing in the LW 4 class, meaning athletes with disabilities in one lower limb, skiing with two skis and two poles.

The classification in the Paralympics is very different from the World Cup.

At the World Cup the athletes are divided into three categories: sit skiers, standing skiers (including arm and leg amputees) and blind skiers, making the chances for placing in the top three much more difficult.

"This Olympics might be the last Olympics where there are different groups," said Chew.

"They want it to be credible. They don't want to be giving medals out to everybody."

By making the classes less specific, Chew says it raises the level of competition in the Games.

"Over the last four years it has become a lot more competitive and the skiing level has come up," he said.

Ludbrook has been on the national ski team for six years and he is now 35 years old.

His success on the Olympic stage doesn't end on the slopes. He is a four-time Paralympic medallist.

He has been to three summer Paralympics where he has won three medals and broken three Canadian disabled freestyle swimming records.

In addition, Ludbrook won a bronze medal in Nagano Paralympics in the super G.

In 2000, he had two top-10 finishes in Switzerland and he was the Canadian champion in the super G last year.

"Whatever happens I know Mark is going to put 100 per cent towards it," said Chew.

The alpine skiers compete in four events: the downhill, super-G, giant slalom and slalom.

The Games last from March 7 to 16.

"This is going to be the best show ever for the Paralympics... with more coverage than ever before," said Chew.

"A lot of people are going to get a good look at what it's all about."

After the Paralympics, Ludbrook will go back to Kimberley to compete in the Canadian Championships.

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