The 2010 Vancouver Winter Paralympic games are well underway with a number of medals already handed out, and today was my first chance to get amongst the action.
I headed out to the University of British Columbia’s (UBC) Thunderbird Arena with TJ, Danica and Sarah to catch the preliminary round sledge hockey match-up between Norway (currently ranked 2nd in the world) and Italy. I gotta be honest here, I had no idea what to expect with sledge hockey – a slightly modified version of the regular game of ice hockey played by athletes with various leg amputations and spinal-chord injuries.
While a little slower and perhaps a little less intense in general play, sledge hockey is DEFINITELY as rough, if not rougher than the stand-up version when it comes to checking. If any of the players were caught against the boards at any stage during the game, it was a sure-fire bet that they were going to get crunched one way or another… sometimes even by their opponents using their sleds as battering rams. It was wild and we loved every minutes of it.
Following an early goal by Italy in the opening frame, it wasn’t until the third period that Norway were able to even things up and ultimately take the game with a late second goal. It was hard to know who to cheer for considering the seeming 50/50 split of fans spread throughout the arena.
Later in the day, all comfy lazing on couches back at TJ’s apartment, we witnessed a completely different paced game as crowd favourite Canada, took on, and literally pummeled Sweden 10-1 in a fantastic game. Here’s a tip, if you catch any of Canada’s next games coming up, keep your eyes out for 23 year-old Greg Westlake (#12) and his incredible ability to find the top shelf of the net. He seems like one of those players who creates a buzz every time he gets the puck, because you just get the feeling that something special is going to happen. You know, like back in the day when Michael Jordan took the ball at the top of the key with 3 seconds left in a game…
All I can say in summary is, make sure you check out some sledge hockey (in particular Canada) over the next week if you want to be thoroughly entertained. Team Canada takes on Norway on Tuesday evening at 8:00pm, and maybe this is a bold and premature prediction, but Team Canada will take on the USA for the third time in 2010 in a gold medal game on Saturday. I can’t wait!
While all this was going on, there were a number of alpine and cross-country skiing events going on up at Whistler in which both Canada and Australia were picking up medals. A HUGE congratulations to the following athletes for their great performances:
- Silver – Viviane Forest (Canada): Alpine Skiing – Women’s Slalom – Visually Impaired
- Silver – Josh Dueck (Canada): Alpine Skiing – Men’s Slalom – Sitting
- Silver – Colette Bourgonje (Canada): Cross-Country Skiing – Women’s 10 km, Sitting
- Bronze – Jessica Gallaher (Australia): Alpine Skiing – Women’s Slalom – Visually Impaired