2002 Paralympics: Glory, Grit and Gold

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By Miki Fairley

Memorable moments include Sarah Will's amazing sweep of four gold medals to become the first women's monoskier to win all four Alpine events: the slalom, the downhill, the super-G, and the giant slalom.

Max Braxenthaler of Germany was another golden athlete: he swept all four gold medals in the men's monoski competition.

Another unforgettable victory was forged by Ragnhild Myklebust, a 58-year-old sit-skier from Norway who ended her Paralympic career in a blaze of glory as she added five cross-country medals to the 17 captured at earlier Games.

Newcomer Hannah Pennington, who was featured in the advance preview issue of The O&P EDGE , finished fifth in the giant slalom, seventh in the slalom, and ninth in the super-G-an impressive showing for the 23-year-old skier.

However, the Paralympics did not escape a pervasive taint of world-class sports: Thomas Oelsner of Germany had to return his gold medals after a positive doping test. The medals were redistributed to Josef Giesen, Germany, for the standing biathlon and to Andreas Hustviet, Norway, for the Nordic skiing short distance.

The new sport of standing hockey was played in a showcase game at the Steiner Ice Center as Team Canada trounced Team USA 8-0. Advocates of the young sport are hoping to have the game included as a demonstration sport as early as 2006, noted The Salt Lake Tribune . "When it gets to that [Paralympic] level, it will be a game that people all over the world will love," said Canadian coach Paul Rosen, quoted in the article.

The Games received unprecedented media coverage, including comprehensive coverage by the A&E television network, with Joan Lunden and Harry Smith, who hosts A&E's acclaimed "Biography" series.

Heart-stirring spectacles featuring such performers as Stevie Wonder, Wynonna, Donny Osmond, and Patti LaBelle, marked the opening and closing ceremonies. Paralympic athlete Lacey Heward joined Patti LaBelle onstage in a sing-along, "proving that she has a set of golden pipes to go with her two bronze medals," said The Salt Lake Tribune .

Volunteers and the people of Utah received warm thanks. "Your spirit and dedication, your friendliness and hospitality, your tireless effort and harmonious cooperation have made these Paralympic Winter Games the best ever," said Phil Craven, the newly elected head of the International Paralympic Committee (IPC), quoted in The Salt Lake Tribune . Craven added, "Your spirit will travel on." Among the volunteers were almost 40 O&P professionals who staffed a repair clinic sponsored by Otto Bock Health Care.

Craven said he hopes Salt Lake City's success will translate into national sports organizations putting more money into training for Paralympic athletes and will inspire Athens to step up its program for the 2004 Summer Games, the newspaper noted.

Photos by Jeremy Harmon, courtesy of Otto Bock Health Care, copyright Otto Bock Health Care.