MOSCOW, March 07, /ITAR-TASS/. First Alpine skiing competition for physically challenged athletes was held in 1948 in Bad Gastein, Austria, with 17 participants. Regular contests trace their history back to 1950. At the I Winter Paralympics in 1976 in ·rnsk·ldsvik, Sweden, athletes fought for medals in two technical events - slalom and giant slalom.
Since then Alpine skiing has been an indispensable part of all Paralympic Games that followed, and the number of events was constantly increasing: the first downhill event took place in 1988 in Innsbruck, Austria; supergiant slalom was included in Paralympic schedule in Lillehammer, Norway, in 1994.
The Sochi Paralympics will see a debut of Paralympic snowboard (the first international contests started in 2008).
Para-alpine contests were long available only for athletes performing from a standing position and visually disabled sportsmen, but the emergence of skis for sitting athletes, or monoskis, enabled wheelchair athletes to practise Alpine skiing as well. The first sitting slalom event took place in Innsbruck in 1984; first medal sets for sitting athletes were distributed in Nagano, Japan, in 1998.
The programme of the XI Sochi Paralympics includes six events - slalom, giant slalom, downhill, Super-G, Super Combined and para snowboard with 32 medal sets in men’s and women’s competitions. The contest will be held in the Roza Khutor Alpine centre.
Like in cross-country skiing, athletes fall into three categories according to the functional classification of the International Paralympic Committee:
1) athletes performing in a standing position (LW 1-9 classes);
2) sitting athletes using a monoski in downhill (LW 10-12);
3) visually impaired athletes (B 1-3) who follow leaders, guide skiers, who go ahead and inform athletes about the trail’s current features via a radio set.
Different classes of athletes can use different equipment: monoskis, one or two ski poles, outriggers - ski and pole combined. A special calculation system gives athletes equal opportunities depending on their classes and equipment.
Since para-snowboard makes its debut at the Sochi Paralympics, only athletes performing from a standing position will partake in the event this year.
In Russia, para-alpine skiing started developing in the 1990s. Alexey Moshkin (standing) was the first to achieve success in this event as he took two golds (1994, 1998) and two bronzes (1994, 2002). Inga Medvedeva followed with downhill bronze in Salt Lake City, U.S.A., in 2002.