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SOCHI, March 13, /ITAR-TASS/. Three sets of medals in men’s alpine skiing will be contested on Thursday at the XI Paralympic Winter Games in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi. Russia’s national ice sledge hockey team will play Norway in semifinals, and curlers will complete their round robin tournament.
Athletes competing in cross-country skiing and biathlon at the Sochi Paralympics will have a day off on Thursday. They brought Team Russia the most of its 47 gold, silver and bronze medals. Meanwhile, the sixth day of competitions will see other athletes winning medals in slalom in three categories - visually impaired, standing and sitting.
For the first time at the current Paralympics, alpine skiers will compete in the evening. Slalomists will define their winners in two runs, and the first ones on March 13 will be visually impaired athletes (15:00 and 19:00 local time). Three Russians - Valery Redkozubov, Ivan Frantsev and Alexander Fedoruk - will participate.
41-year-old Redkozubov from Norilsk in the Krasnoyarsk Territory in East Siberia, who carried the Russian flag at the Sochi Paralympics opening ceremony on March 7, has good chances to win gold on Friday in men’s super combined, leading after the first event of the program - slalom.
At 15:15, men will start their first run in the standing event. The second run will begin at 19:10. Alexander Alyabyev, Alexander Vetrov, Alexander Akhadulin and Alexey Bugayev are getting ready for the start. 16-year-old Bugayev has already won Sochi silver in downhill and bronze in super-G. Sitting events will kick off at 15:55 and 19:35. Nikolay Shuvalov, who has not taken part in other alpine skiing events, will participate.
Alpine skiers are divided into three categories: athletes who compete standing, athletes competing sitting who use a single ski and visually impaired athletes who follow leaders that use portable radios to inform them of the race track’s peculiarities. Various classes of alpine skiers may use different equipment: sitting skis, ski poles (one or two), outriggers (ski and pole combined). A special calculation system equalizes chances for athletes depending on their classes and equipment they use.
Russia’s sledge hockey team reached the semifinals at its debut Paralympics. In the preliminary round, the hosts defeated Vancouver Paralympic champions the United States 2-1, which prevented a match in the semifinals with Canada’s team that had won the 2006 Paralympics in Turin.
However, the Russian team’s closest rival, the Norwegian team, is rather renowned although it lost to Canada in the preliminary round 0-4. The Scandinavians beat Canadians at the 2010 Vancouver Games in the match for the third place 2-1, won silver in 2002 and 2006, and even claimed gold at the 1998 Paralympics in Nagano, Japan, defeating Canada in the final 2-0.
The Russian and Norwegian ice sledge hockey teams will meet at 13:00. Canada will play USA in another semifinal at 20:00.
Ice sledge hockey is the Paralympic version of ice hockey. It is fast-paced, highly physical and played by male athletes with a physical disability in the lower part of the body. Instead of skates, players use double-blade sledges that allow the puck to pass beneath. Players use two sticks, which have a spike-end for pushing and a blade-end for shooting.
As in ice hockey, each team attempts to outscore its opponent by shooting the puck across the ice and into the opposing team’s goal while preventing the opposing team from scoring. Six players (including the goalkeeper) from each team are on the ice at one time. Double-blade sledges that allow the puck to pass underneath replace skates, and the players use sticks with a spike-end and a blade-end. Ice sledge hockey games consist of three 15-minute periods.
Russia’s wheelchair curling team, who have secured a pass to the semifinals, will play Slovakia at 15:30 Moscow Time.
Wheelchair curling is open to male and female athletes who have a physical disability in the lower half of their body. The sport is the Paralympic equivalent of curling with the difference lying in the way the players move around the field of play and handle the stone. There are no sweeping techniques used.
Two teams, each comprising 4 players and one reserve player, take part in the game. Teams are comprised of both men and women. Players may use their hands to throw the stone or an extender cue that can be attached to the handle of the stone to push it.