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PARALYMPICS: Nordic preview and event schedule


PARALYMPICS: Nordic preview and event schedule{mosimage}The U.S. Paralympic nordic ski team is poised, prepared and eagerly anticipating the start of the 2006 Paralympic Games in Torino, Italy. The team features nine athletes from across the United States who vary in age and in experience level.

The nordic competition features cross-country skiing and biathlon. Athletes with similar disabilities compete against one another in each given event. There are three classes: standing, sitting and visually impaired. In cross-country, there are 20 medal events for both men and women in short, middle and long distances, as well as a relay. In biathlon, 12 medals are up for grabs in two distances, short and long.

Under the guidance of head coach Jon Kreamelmeyer (Frisco, Colo.), the nordic ski team has a likely shot at claiming several medals over the course of the Games.

Kreamelmeyer, a 12-year coaching veteran, has a lot of faith in his team. ‘This is a very strong group of athletes,” he said. “They have all worked extremely hard and are equally capable of getting on the podium. This team has a great amount of leadership and experience. With the tremendous work ethic that each athlete has demonstrated, I firmly believe that we will have an incredible experience here in Torino.’

The team is led by three-time Paralympian Steve Cook, the 2005 World Cup overall standing champion. Internationally, Cook has been a consistent leader in his class. After winning silver medals in each of his four events (5 km, 10 km, 20 km and relay) at the 2002 Paralympic Games, he has expectations to do well, but he isn’t putting pressure on himself to reach the top of the podium.

‘My goal for the Games is to compete well, whatever that may mean’ he said. ‘I don’t want to be disappointed in myself for making silly mistakes or for not giving it my all. If I do that and win a medal, that would obviously be wonderful, but I’m not going to beat myself up about it.’

At 51 years old, Candace Cable is the oldest female entered in the nordic competition. These will be the 10th Paralympic Games for Cable, who has five Paralympic Summer Games appearances (track and field/wheelchair racing) and five Paralympic Winter Games appearances. She won three medals at the 1992 Paralympic Winter Games as an alpine skier before switching to nordic. At the 2002 Paralympic Games in Salt Lake City, Cable placed fourth in the 5 km, her highest finish as a nordic skier at the Paralympic Games. She has plans to retire following the 2006 season and will devote her energy to her nonprofit organization, called Turning Point Tahoe. The organization encourages people in wheelchairs to participate in outdoor recreation.

Six-time Paralympian Bob Balk will look to add to his collection of hardware, which includes two silver medals from the 2002 Paralympic Games and one bronze medal from the 1998 Paralympic Games in Nagano. Balk competes in the sitting class. His strongest event is the 10 km, but he has won his share of titles in all of the cross-country distances. When he isn’t training, Balk, who recently celebrated his 40th birthday, works full time as a venture capital investments manager for Boeing. Back home in southern California, his wife is currently pregnant with triplets.

These are the fourth Paralympic Games for standing athlete Mike Crenshaw. He specializes in the long distances and was the 20 km bronze medalist at the 1998 Paralympic Games in Nagano. At 51 years old, Crenshaw has many years of experience under his belt and provides the team with solid leadership.

At 21 years old, Kelly Underkofler is the youngest member of the U.S. nordic squad. Although she was born missing her left hand and most of her forearm, she has been cross-country skiing since she was 4 years old. At the 2002 Paralympic Games in Salt Lake City, Underkofler had two top-10 finishes in the women’s standing class (ninth in 5 km and 10th in 10 km). Based on recent World Championships results, she should be a contender in both the cross-country and biathlon events.

Four nordic athletes are competing in their first Paralympic Games.

Monica Bascio was a world champion handcyclist before she made the transition to nordic skiing. She has only competed internationally for two years, but already has a handful of top-five World Cup finishes, including a silver medal in the 10 km at the World Cup Finals. She competes in the women’s sitting class and will be very competitive in biathlon and in the cross-country distance races.

Greg Mallory took up handcycling and kayaking after being paralyzed in a skiing accident. He began cross-country skiing as a way of staying in shape during the winter and quickly made his way to the U.S. Disabled Ski Team. A lawyer with the legal firm Schwabe, Williamson and Wyatt, Mallory has a strong work ethic is expected to surprise the competition in Torino.

Dan Perkins has skied for about 25 years, but only recently joined the World Cup and began skiing internationally. A standing athlete, Perkins was serving with the U.S. Navy in London when he inadvertently stepped into traffic and was struck by a bus, resulting in the amputation of his foot. He is competing in a tough class in Torino, but with his four top-10 finishes at the 2004 World Cup Finals, he has momentum in his favor.

Chris Klebl will be competing in the men’s sitting class. He is relatively new to the sport, but has already shown great potential after placing 10th in the first international race of his career – a World Cup race in Klosters, Switzerland. He was the U.S. champion in all of his events (5 km, 10 km, 15 km) at the 2005 nationals in Soldier Hollow, Utah.

The 2006 Paralympic Games run from March 10-19 in Torino, Italy. The nordic competitions are held in Pragelato Plan, at the same venue that was used during the Olympic Games.

Schedule of events for U.S. Paralympic nordic ski team
March 11
Biathlon

Men’s 12.5 km Standing (Dan Perkins)
Women’s 12.5 km Standing (Kelly Underkofler)
Women’s 10 km Sitting (Monica Bascio)

March 12
Cross-country

Men’s 5 km Standing (Steve Cook, Mike Crenshaw, Dan Perkins)
Men’s 5 km sitting (Bob Balk, Chris Klebl, Greg Mallory)
Women’s 5 km standing (Kelly Underkofler)
Women’s 2.5 km sitting (Monica Bascio, Candace Cable)

March 14
Biathlon

Men’s 7.5 km (Dan Perkins)
Women’s 7.5 km standing (Kelly Underkofler)
Women’s 7.5 km sitting (Monica Bascio)

March 15
Cross-country

Men’s 10 km standing (Steve Cook, Mike Crenshaw, Dan Perkins)
Men’s 10 km sitting (Bob Balk, Chris Klebl, Greg Mallory)
Women’s 10 km standing (Kelly Underkofler)
Women’s 5 km sitting (Monica Bascio, Candace Cable)

March 17
Cross-country

Women’s relay (3 x 2.5 km)
Men’s relay (1 x 1.75 km + 2 x 5 km)

March 18
Cross-country

Men’s 15 km sitting (Bob Balk, Chris Klebl, Greg Mallory)
Women’s 10 km sitting (Monica Bascio, Candace Cable)

March 19
Cross-country

Men’s 20 km standing (Steve Cook, Mike Crenshaw, Dan Perkins)
Women’s 15 km standing (Kelly Underkofler)

- USOC

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