SOCHI, March 15, /ITAR-TASS/. Medals in ice sledge hockey, alpine and cross-country skiing, as well as in wheelchair curling will be contested on Saturday at the XI Paralympic Winter Games in the Russian Black Sea resort of Sochi.
At its debut Paralympics, Russia’s sledge hockey team reached the final, in which it will face 2010 Vancouver Paralympic champions the United States. In the preliminary round, Russia’s national team beat the Americans 2-1. In semifinals, both teams played successfully, with no pucks delivered to their goals: Russia defeated Norway 4-0, and the United States left no chance for Canada beating them 3-0.
Norway and Canada will face each other in the bronze medal game at the Shayba Arena at 13:00. The United States will play Russia at the same venue 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 curling team will have to hold two games on Saturday: semifinals, the final and the bronze medal game are due today. In the semifinal, the Russian team, which won the group stage, will face Great Britain at 09:30. Russia earlier beat Britain 11-2 in round robin session 9. Canada will play China in another semifinal.
The bronze medal game and the final will be held at 15:30. Only one team will leave without medals.
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.
Relays will be held in cross-country skiing. The 4x2.5-kilometer mixed relay will begin at 10:00, and the 4x2.5km open relay will start at 12:00. The ski relay comprises two stages of classical techniques and two stages of free techniques. Two to four skiers may be part of one team, with each athlete participating in only one relay race. In the mixed relay, at least one woman should be included in the team. The peculiar feature of Paralympic ski relays is that athletes from different functional categories - standing, sitting and visually impaired - may compete together.
In alpine skiing, three sets of medals will be contested in men’s giant slalom. The participants will have two runs. Visually impaired athletes will be the first to start (09:30, 13:30). Valery Redkozubov, who already has two Paralympic golds, will join the fight for medals. Russians Ivan Frantsev and Alexander Fedoruk will also take part.
Standing events will begin at 09:55 and 13:50. Two-time Sochi Paralympic champion 16-year-old Alexey Bugayev will participate. Besides, Alexander Alyabyev, Alexander Vetrov and Alexander Akhmadulin will compete for medals. Sitting events will start at 10:45 and 14:25. Russia’s Nikolay Shuvalov will take part.
Team Russia tops the Sochi Paralympics medal standings with 64 awards (25 golds, 21 silvers and 18 bronzes).
The 2014 Winter Paralympic Games kicked off in Sochi on March 7 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.