Canada’s Woolstencroft Wins Paralympic Gold

Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The Canadian Press

Standing at the top of the podium never gets old for alpine skier Lauren Woolstencroft, just harder.

Woolstencroft earned her second gold medal of the Paralympics Wednesday by winning the women’s standing giant slalom. She finished 7.57 seconds ahead of silver medallist Andrea Rothfuss of Germany.

“I haven’t had a very good World Cup season,” said the 28-year-old from North Vancouver, B.C. “I lost tons of races. That just motivated me to come here.

“It’s a strong field. I’m surprised at the margins [of victory] because it’s been really tight at the World Cup the last few years. I’m happy I can ski my best here.”

Karolina Wisniewska of Vancouver came close to winning her second medal of the Paralympics, but finished fourth.

“It’s my best giant slalom result of the season,” said Wisniewska, 33. “I would have loved to be on the podium again.

“Fourth place is really good for me.”

Meanwhile in wheelchair curling on Wednesday, Canada clinched top spot in the round robin and a semifinal berth with a pair of wins. Canada beat Germany 8-6 in the early draw and followed with a 6-4 win over South Korea.

The round-robin portion of the competition closes out Thursday, with the medal round set for Saturday.

Woolstencroft, the first double-gold medallist for Canada at these Games, won the race in two minutes 34.03 seconds. Rothfuss was clocked in 2:41.60, while Slovakia’s Petra Smarzova was third in 2:41.63. Wisniewska finished in 2:44.03.

Woolstencroft won Monday’s slalom race, while Wisniewska was third.

Born without legs below the knee and no left arm below the elbow, Woolstencroft has won seven Paralympic medals, including five gold.

Despite her dominating performance Wednesday, she said the medals are not coming any easier.

“When I won my first one in Salt Lake City, it was unexpected,” said the electrical engineer. “There was no pressure on me going in. There was a lot less pressure on Paralympic athletes in general.

“Now there is a lot more pressure. A lot more time and resources goes into our sport. It takes on a different meaning. We train a lot more. We have a lot more serious program than we did 10 years ago. To perform with that kind of pressure now, eight years later, is great.”

In other events, Jeff Dickson of Sudbury, Ont., was the top Canadian in the men’s slalom finishing 18th.

No Canadian was on the podium at biathlon.

Brian McKeever and his brother Robin decided not to race the 12.5-kilometre event for the visually impaired so they will be rested for Thursday’s 10-kilometre cross-country competition. Robin is also still battling the affects of a cold.

Canada has won eight medals at the Paralympics, including three gold, three silver and two bronze.

The goal of the Canadian team is to finish in the top three countries in gold medals won.

The Russian Federation leads the medal table with 23, including eight gold. Germany has 12 medals, seven of them gold while Ukraine has 12 medals, including three gold.

Woolstencroft’s seven medals ties her with Wisniewska for the most Paralympic medals won by a Canadian skier.

“Karolina was on the team years before I started,” said Woolstencroft. “She was great when I started, kind of helping me and showing me the ropes.

“For a while it was just her and I in terms of girls on the team. We spent a huge amount of time together training and competing. It’s great to be up there with seven medals with her.”

Wisniewska, who was born with cerebral palsy which affects her muscle co-ordination and lower-body strength, has four silver and three bronze but no Paralympic gold.

“If it comes my way I’m going to be thrilled,” Wisniewska said. “I have to keep my expectations realistic.

“I am just focusing on every race and every day and skiing the best I can.”

Wisniewska began skiing at age five and grew up racing able-bodied skiers.

She won the overall World Cup title in 2003, but then retired after suffering a concussion in training. In 2007 Wisniewska was the first Paralympian named to the Canadian Ski Hall of Fame.

When Vancouver was awarded the 2010 Winter Olympics Wisniewska made the decision to come out of retirement so she could compete in a Paralympics on home soil.

“It was a very difficult decision because I knew exactly what was involved,” she said. “I am glad I made it.

“It was the right decision.”

The Canadian Press,

Reproduced from http://www.cbc.ca/sports/amateur/story/2010/03/17/sp-paralympics-roundup.html