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SOCHI, March 08, /ITAR-TASS/. Three athletes were inducted in the Visa Paralympic Hall of Fame on Saturday at an official ceremony in Russia’s Sochi, which currently hosts the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games.
The ceremony took place at the Ayvazovsky Hotel in the Russian Black Sea resort city and the three inducted athletes are Eric Villalon Fuentes, a visually impaired skier from Spain, Germany’s visually impaired skier Verena Bentele and Jon Kreamelmeyer, an American cross-country skiing coach.
"I am overwhelmed and truly honored to be here to here today,” Kreamelmeyer, who served as the head coach of the US Paralympic cross-country skiing team between1998-2006, said after he received the award.
During Kreamelmeyer’s coaching career the US team won 11 Paralympics medals and claimed numerous World Cup podiums. Before his coaching career Kreamelmeyer served as an athlete guide for cross-country skier Michelle Drolet at the 1992 Paralympic Games in Albertville and 1994 Paralympics in Lillehammer.
“If I could divide this award into pieces I would give a piece to every athlete I have worked with," he said.
Spain’s Villalon Fuentes participated in three Paralympic Games between 1998 and 2006. The visually impaired skier won a total of five gold, three silver and one bronze medals to become Spain’s most successful Paralympic athlete of all time.
"It is a pleasure to receive this valuable award, being the opportunity to recognize the well done job by many people that worked and helped me in my incredible sporting journey," Villalon Fuentes said at the ceremony on Saturday.
Germany’s Bentele, who is the most successful female Paralympic biathlete of all-time, said addressing everyone at the ceremony that “It is a very big privilege to be a member of the Paralympic Hall of Fame.”
“For me it was an incredible time in the last 15 years to be part of the Paralympic Movement," the visually impaired athlete, who is also the world’s second most successful Paralympic cross-country skier, added.
The Visa Paralympic Hall of Fame was established in 2006 to recognize retired Paralympic athletes and coaches for their outstanding athletic performance, fair play history and contribution in community activities.
The induction ceremony coincided with the 2014 Winter Paralympic Games, which kicked off in Russia’s Sochi with the opening ceremony at the Fisht Stadium on Friday and will run until March 16.
Over 1,350 Paralympic athletes from 45 countries are competing for 72 sets of medals at Russia’s first ever Winter Paralympic Games.