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Sochi 2014

Modin loses guide as he tries to keep pace with McKeever

After two successful Paralympics, Swedish Nordic skier Zebastian Modin is on the hunt for a new guide.

Two athletes embrace each other for a close-up photo. Sweden's Zebastian Modin, left, and Canada's Brian McKeever embrace after claiming the top two spots in the men's 1km visually impaired sprint cross-country skiing race at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. © • Getty Images
By Richard Waterhouse | For the IPC

“He told me a month ago that he doesn’t have the motivation to practice for four more years because he knows how much effort he needs to put in, but it is a great decision for him to decide now instead of next year or in two to three years.”

Nineteen-year-old Zebastian Modin is hoping to become the best visually impaired cross-country skier after a successful campaign at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games.

After winning two silvers and a bronze in March, the Swedish skier and his guide, Albin Ackerot, achieved more than they hoped for.

“Zebastian has got a lot better over these last four years and he is training much more than he was when he was a rookie,” Ackerot said. “Even the results in Sochi were a bit of a surprise for us, but that just shows that he is one of the best.”

Unfortunately, last month, Ackerot quit as Modin’s guide – a substantial loss for Modin, who is now looking to find an immediate replacement.

“He told me a month ago that he doesn’t have the motivation to practice for four more years because he knows how much effort he needs to put in, but it is a great decision for him to decide now instead of next year or in two to three years,” said Modin.

In Sochi, Modin and Ackerot were runners-up in both the men’s 1km sprint visually impaired and 4x2.5km mixed relay. In the former, they were narrowly beaten by Canadian Brian McKeever by 1.8 seconds. They came through his heat with the fastest time of 4:11.6 and looked set to beat the 10-time Paralympic champion after his early fall, but he was unable to hold him off at the end.

Modin has now competed in two Paralympics despite still being in his teens. In 2010, he travelled to Vancouver at just 15 and was the youngest athlete to compete at those Games.

“For me I had a great experience in Vancouver,” Modin said. “There was a lot more media and a lot of spectators and everything was so much bigger since it was the Paralympics. (In Sochi), I knew what it was going to be like so it was a big advantage for me.”

Modin revealed that he was inspired to originally take up cross-country skiing by the people close to him, but that he was also motivated by the success of Canadian and fellow competitor, McKeever.

“I was told about him when I went to my training camp and one of my leaders mentioned that he was the best in our class,” Modin said of McKeever. “I then competed against him at the Paralympics in Vancouver and he was a great sportsman.

“He’s great for our sport. He is somebody that more athletes should be like as he raises the level and pushes everyone to do well.”

Meanwhile, after another successful Games, McKeever is setting out his plans for next season, which will be highlighted on the calendar by the 2015 IPC Nordic Skiing World Championships in late January.

“I’m gearing up for another training season, trying to find ways of getting over some lingering injuries and looking at strategies to push the level up a couple more notches,” McKeever said.

“We’re trying to make it fun and stimulating, and I’ll be looking for more top level races to focus on next winter.”

Zebastian Modin and Brian McKeever

Zebastian Modin and Brian McKeever

Steve Cash

Steve Cash

Sochi cross-country

Sochi cross-country

Anna Schaffelhuber Sochi

Anna Schaffelhuber Sochi

Azat Karachuri Russia Sochi

Azat Karachuri Russia Sochi

Para-snowboard video wins major award

Video produced by RTV for Allianz recognised at WorldMediaFestival

© •
By IPC

A WorldMediaFestival award is widely regarded as one of the world's highest honours in visual competition and award winners are among the leaders in their profession.

An educational video “How to Para Snowboard” featuring the Netherlands’ Sochi 2014 gold medallist Bibian Mentel-Spee has won a prestigious global award.

The six-minute long informative video, which was produced for IPC international partner Allianz by RTV Film and Television, won a silver trophy at the WorldMediaFestival, an event that honours and celebrates excellent solutions in Film, Television, Web, Web TV and Print productions on an international scale.

Featuring a number of the world’s best para-snowboarders, the video introduces viewers to the Paralympic discipline which made its debut at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. It explains the equipment used by the athletes, the types of courses they race and the techniques they use to achieve maximum performance. The athletes, who all have a lower leg impairment, also give an insight into their prosthetic legs and how they are adapted for the sport.

A WorldMediaFestival award is widely regarded as one of the world's highest honours in visual competition and award winners are among the leaders in their profession.

This year judges received nearly 700 entries from 37 countries.

To view the video, please visit ParalympicSport.TV

Russia's ice sledge hockey team

Russia's ice sledge hockey team

Walsh hails Sochi 2014 a success and plans for the future

Rob Walsh, the Chairperson of the IPC Nordic Skiing Sport Technical Committee has hailed the Games as a huge success and highlighted an area that can make the PyeongChang 2018 Games even better.

Agitos at  Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Centre The Paralympic Agitos sit on display at the Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Centre at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. © • Getty Images
By IPC

“The Paralympics getting more recognition and greater awareness on TV attracts potential athletes. This means in the future there will be a greater pool of athletes to choose from and also it improves the support for those athletes who train and compete.”

In Sochi, around 170 athletes competed in 38 medal events at the spectacular Laura Cross-Country Ski and Biathlon Centre in front of vocal capacity crowds and millions of TV viewers around the world. Russia topped the medals table claiming 25 of the 38 Nordic skiing gold medals available.

Walsh said: “The Sochi Paralympics were excellent and the quality of the competition was really good. It was evident that we had good, well prepared athletes which led to some exciting races.

“We had great spectator attendance which helped the atmosphere in the whole venue and the facilities and organisation was really good. We did have some challenges with the weather and the snow condition, but the team there – the IPC officials and the organising committee – worked together to do a superb job.”

Walsh was also delighted at the level of media coverage the Sochi 2014 Games received around the world, in particular in his native US where NBC and NBC Sports Network broadcast the Games live for the very first time.

“In the same way London 2012 introduced the summer Paralympics to many new people, I think Sochi did the same for winter sports.

“I think advertising the Paralympics during NBC’s coverage of the Olympics, together with their coverage of the Games, certainly helped to raise awareness in America.

“The Paralympics getting more recognition and greater awareness on TV attracts potential athletes. This means in the future there will be a greater pool of athletes to choose from and also it improves the support for those athletes who train and compete.”

Of the 38 medal events that took place over eight days of competition, Walsh picked out Helene Ripa of Sweden’s victory in the women’s 15km standing race as his standout moment of the Games. The Swede won gold by less than four seconds from Ukraine’s Iuliia Batenkova in a thrilling finish.

“It was a beautiful sunny day in Sochi and we had a big crowd in the stands. That race came down to two athletes and I think the time difference was just a few seconds between gold and silver,” explained Walsh.

“Watching it on the big screen and listening to the commentator’s updates, you knew it was a close race. As Ripa came round into the finish everyone was watching the clock to see if she ended up with gold or silver.

“It was a really exciting finish and was how the sport should be. It’s good for the athletes, good for the spectators and the TV viewers at home. It was spectacular.

“It was not the only great finish we had in Sochi, but on that day we had the combination of the weather and the crowds. It’s something I will remember for a long time.”

Following Sochi’s success, Walsh has already pinpointed one area he believes will be crucial to ensure the next Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea are even better.

“One thing we learned from Sochi is event experience and the importance of knowing how to stage one of our events,” said Walsh. “We have already been in discussion with PyeongChang 2018 and we’re now looking at having a World Cup in Korea next year. This will give the athletes an experience of going to Asia to compete and also help get the Koreans accustomed with hosting our events as they’ve never hosted an IPC competition before.

“This, combined with the experience of those who attended the IPC Observers Programme in Sochi and a strong engagement programme at our events between now and 2018, we hope will pay dividend for us in four years time.”

The next major international event on the IPC Nordic Skiing calendar, outside of the annual World Cup, is the 2015 World Championships that will be staged in Cable, Wisconsin, in the USA between 24 January and 1 February.

French snowboarder drops journalism career for Sochi silver

Cecile Hernandez-Cervellon is already looking ahead to PyeongChang 2018 and snowboard’s new race format.

Cecile Hernandez-Cervellon snowboards down the course at Sochi 2014. Cecile Hernandez-Cervellon finished second in the debut of women's snowboard cross at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. © • Getty Images
By Jake Duhaime | For the IPC

“It was an honour to win this medal for France and now I want to have this platform. I want to pay tribute and speak about disability, sport and life."

Cecile Hernandez-Cervellon went from a last-minute entry to securing a Paralympic medal before her final run at the Sochi 2014 Games this year.

The French snowboarder’s journey to Sochi was as surprising as it was sweet - a long and winding road that took her from BMX to SBX with stops in fashion, journalism, politics and public speaking.

Now, the silver medallist could be the cornerstone of her country's plans to expand its women's snowboard programme, depending on what comes out of next month's IPC meetings in Bonn, Germany.

"I'm just waiting to get organised and see what they do," said Christian Femy, Director of Snow Sport for the French Handisport Federation. "We'll use that to figure out what we're going to do and organise our team and her plans from there."

At Sochi 2014, Cervellon finished nearly 10 seconds (9.88) behind Bibian Mentel-Spee of the Netherlands, a result everyone expected. What few predicted was that the 39-year-old French snowboarder would win a silver medal and bump American Amy Purdy to third place, nor did they expect it to happen just months into her first IPCAS Snowboard World Cup season.

“I just took each moment and focused on myself,” Cervellon said. “I didn’t want to compare myself to anybody else. I was so happy for Bibian because she isn’t just a great rider, but a great person as well.”

With an eye on 2018, the winner of four BMX World Championships may have an edge for the next Paralympic quadrennial. On the dirt, she was used to having her competition directly alongside while navigating the course.

Sochi’s para-snowboard competition was a time-trial format, but that will change due to new Paralympic disciplines designed to increase the sport's exposure with the public, mixing speed with strategy.

“I have the same feelings about snowboarding that I do with BMX. The turns and jumps are exciting. I love the fact that it has some danger to it,” Cervellon said. “You have to manage and organise the track well, especially when you know who is alongside you.”

After just starting to compete internationally in late 2013, two international events yielded a pair of fourth-place finishes for Hernandez-Cervellon.

After successfully petitioning for an additional spot in the first-ever Paralympic snowboard cross competition, Hernandez-Cervellon would make the sacrifice and give up her job as a journalist to pursue her athletic ambitions.

Cervellon had previously written a book, held political office and even created her own festival of extreme sports, a benchmark event known as FAST.

“I know it was probably a big surprise to be on the French national team, but for me being there wasn’t enough. My goal was to be on the podium and win a bronze medal, not necessarily the silver.”

That piece of Paralympic silver will offer her a new platform for her sport. Following Sochi, Hernandez-Cervellon has done countless TV and radio interviews and visited schools to spread her message of inspiration. She, like the rest of her Paralympic teammates, will meet with French President Francois Hollande in June.

“It was an honour to win this medal for France and now I want to have this platform,” she said “I want to pay tribute and speak about disability, sport and life."