News

Paul Martin's Winter Paralympics Roundup

winter_paralypics_mascot_in_snow_500x500.jpg
 

Paul Martin's Winter Paralympics Roundup

Physio Remedies' Physiotherapist and Director Paul Martin is also Technical Lead Physio for Paralympic Sport with English Institute of Sport and he's just back from the Winter Paralympics in PyeongChang.

Paul's written up his Roundup of The 2018 Winter Paralympics for your reading pleasure:

 

winter_paralypics_team-1000x515.jpg

 

Brrrrh, snow!

Every Games is different in one way or another. Although there are some standard consistencies across the board (the general cosmopolitan feel of so many people from so many nations in one place, the obsession about the food hall, athlete performances and their repercussions both good and bad) each Games has a number of unique touches that mean attendees will have very specific memories that in a moment can return them to a very specific place and time.

There were many of these with PyeongChang but I think one of the most obvious this time, which may sound a little silly given the 'Winter' part of the Winter Games, was the snow. PyeongChang is the coldest place in the world on its line of latitude (it is south of The Azores, Madrid and Athens to name but three places), is at a very modest altitude of 700m and has an average snowfall of 15cm per year. An interesting idea to hold a Winter Games here, although as many people that attended the Games in Sochi would tell you, it doesn't need to be wintry to host a Winter Games. The 2022 edition will be in held that traditional alpine resort Beijing, after all!

On arrival, the local area had received 50cm of snow overnight rending the vast majority of the village treacherous to move through. The local solution was to bring in a lot of diggers and trucks to scoop the snow away. A fine idea until one considers how these vehicles might get into the required area in the first place! The temperatures were unusually cold for the area as well, initially ranging between -15 and -6 but wind chill taking it a lot lower than that. These conditions made for some spectacular views and wonderful pictures, but athletes in wheelchairs trying to push themselves around a snow-covered village had somewhat larger problems to deal with.

The cycle of temperatures that eventually crept above freezing meant that areas of the Village became skid-pans and it took a while to get enough salt out to manage the problem. Once the majority of it had been cleared however, 30 cm fell over another couple of days. Fortunately much of this had been sorted by the time the Opening Ceremony started and while there was still a lot of snow around, most areas were easily navigable with care. Within six days of the Games starting, we had temperatures of 15 degrees - t-shirt and shorts weather - and quite the temperature swing. Then it snowed again....

 

winter_paralypics_snow-1000x515.jpg

 

Compact

The entire feel of the Winter Games was a lot more compact than a summer event. Smaller Village, smaller team and fewer medal events, however the drive from the athletes and the support offered by the British Paralympic Association remained as high as ever. The role of the BPA in this context is to create an environment where the athletes and coaches can focus solely on performance. The attention to detail required to deliver this is phenomenal and the entire organisation goes into overdrive, whether that is delivery within the Village to the team, engaging with commercial sponsors and dignitaries, organising media opportunities (quite a challenge given the small number of media there and the nine hour time difference to the UK), providing exposure of the environment to the next group of potential Paralympians (the Paralympic Inspiration Programme, or PIP, that allows some access to selected athletes so they can understand what they can expect at Games time which was managed with assistance from the Help For Heroes charity) to the day-to-day planning of logistics around athlete/coach/practitioner movement between different venues, planning of the bump-out (which started around Day 3 of 9 when it felt like we'd only just got in!) and doing as much as possible so that the everyday stresses were removed as much as possible from the people that mattered. The 'behind the scenes' work is vast and hard, however there is much more of a blue print for the type and style of what is required and it now becomes a challenge of how to fit what we need into the spaces we are provided with by the local organising committee. 

 

Medals!

Competition was, as always, exciting and, fortunately, successful. UK Sport had set Paralympics GB a medal target of between 6-12 with an overall target of 7 medals. No previous GB Winter Paralympic team had achieved this and it was a reflection of the investment they had made into the Winter sports. Things got off to a shaky start when the opening run of one of our top medal prospects in the downhill event (Menna Fitzpatrick and her guide Jen Kehoe) ended in less than 30 seconds when Menna fell. Step up Millie Knight and her guide Brett Wild who posted a phenomenal time to lead the field. A crash in PyeongChang the previous year at the test event had resulted in some confidence problems (detailed in this piece), however in training it was becoming clear that the pre-crash Millie was starting to return. Her time was bested by Henrieta Farkasova from Slovakia who had dominated the Visually Impaired event throughout the season and would go on to win gold in 4 of the 5 events. Her sole silver was on the very last day when she was beaten to Slalom Gold by Menna and Jen.

As for the rest of the 17-strong squad, the Curlers had an event they might like to forget, however good early wins against Paralympic Champions Canada and World Champions Norway showed there is still enough talent to trouble the best in the world. The gold was won by China who look like they could dominate this event for some time to come. Although the final was a tight affair, it seems that they are taking this event seriously ahead of a home Games in 4 years.

 

winter_paralypics_curling-1000x515.jpg

 

Elsewhere on the slopes, the snowboarders found conditions not especially to their liking and although some strong top 10 finishes were welcome, a couple may have been a little disappointed not to podium after some of the successes they have had on the World Cup circuit. The standing alpine skiers pretty much hit par for what they were expected to achieve and left happy with their finishes. In the Nordic events, the most punishing in the Winter programme, and possibly across the entire Paralympic landscape, Scott Meenagh performed very creditably, especially that he has only been involved for 18 months. He is relishing the challenge the sport offers him and is constantly looking at means of progressing his performance. Six hard endurance events in nine days in very changeable conditions propelling yourself with arms only is a gruelling programme but in every event he left everything on the course. Watch this space.

So it was left to the Visually Impaired ladies to scoop all of the medals required. 2 silvers and a bronze for Millie and Brett, a gold, 2 silvers and a bronze for Menna and Jen. Our only previous gold medallist Kelly Gallagher competed, however her performances were hampered following a couple of falls and injuries, however Kelly is not one for giving anything less than 100% and she knows she did everything she could have done to give her best performance. Menna and Jen's win in the Women's slalom coupled with Millie and Brett's bronze meant that the target of 7 was reached in the very last alpine event - plenty of relief all round!

 

winter_paralypics_winners-500x500.jpg
 

Paul took some great photos - you can see them all here!

 
 

Words and images by Paul Martin.

Paul Martin's Low Down on the Winter Paralympics

winter-paralympics-logo-500x500.png

Paul Martin's Low Down on the Winter Paralympics

 

In his other life Physio Remedies' Physiotherapist and Director Paul Martin is Technical Lead Physio for Paralympic Sport with English Institute of Sport. Once again he's been working with ParalympicsGB athletes to get them ready for the Winter Paralympics and will shortly be heading to PyeongChang to support the team during the Games.

We asked Paul to give us the lowdown and his 'ones to watch' of the Winter Paralympics:


Preparations:
 

As the Winter Olympics draws to an end, preparations start for the Winter Paralympics in PyeongChang to start with the opening ceremony on 9th March. As part of the handover process, some of the Paralympics GB delegation will be in the Village for the final 2 days of the Olympics to start planning how we will use the space and to ensure our space is prepared for the arrival of the athletes, some of whom will enter the Village on the first day of opening on 3rd March.

 

New Kit:

Now it's a case of packing the essentials and making sure the final preparations for the team are set. The official kit arrived in early January (which gave ample time to get rid of some of the Christmas bulk that made it look just a little too tight!) and as might be expected for a winter games, it is a lot bulkier and warmer than the summer games kit. It is essentially what you have seen the Team GB athletes wearing with the Paralympics 'face on' lion rather than the Team GB lion in profile. This means there is much less space for packing and given the Opening and Closing Ceremonies wear (provided by Asos, it is very warm and very bulky!), extra kit space will be at a premium.

 

Competition Events:

There are 6 competition events in the Winter Paralympics with a total of 80 medals at stake; Alpine Skiing, Biathlon, Cross Country Skiing, Para-Ice Hockey (formerly known as Sledge Hockey), Snowboarding and Wheelchair Curling. Paralympics GB has athletes competing in Alpine Skiing, Biathlon, Cross Country, Snowboarding and Wheelchair Curling and the medal target from UK Sport is 7 medals (in a range of 6-12). This is quite a challenging total and within the first 3-4 days there should be a good idea of whether we will hit our target as many of our best events are early in the Games.

 

Ones to Watch:

Many of these will come in the Alpine Skiing where GB athletes have perfromed well so far this year and are improving. Kelly Gallagher will be defending her Super G (visual impairment) gold medal from Sochi with guide Gary Smith. They will be pushed across all their events by Millie Knight (with guide Brett Wild) who competed in Sochi as a 15 year old and Menna Fitzpatrick (with guide Jen Kehoe) who have won 10 medals in 10 World Cup events this season. James Whitely and Chris Lloyd will be competing in the standing classification in the Men's events.

For the first time in 20 years we have an athlete competing in Biathlon and Cross Country. THis is a new sport for Scott Meenagh who transferred from rowing and in 14 months is starting to make his mark iin both disciplines. The former Royal Engineer has been improving through the season and any top 10 finish would represent an excellent Games for him in his 8 events.

Snowboarding makes it's debut in Pyeongchang with events in Banked Slalom and Snowboard Cross. Owen Pick, Ben Moore and James Barnes-Miller will be flying the flag and with a couple of podium finishes for them already this year, and in a sport that can be unpredicatable at the best of times, anything is possible!

Finally, the GB Curlers won Bronze in Sochi and Aileen Nelson and her experienced team will be looking to better that. They have beaten everyone on the circuit at one point or another this season so hopes are good.

Enjoy the show!

 

Words by Paul Martin.