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Alpine team building towards 2018 Paralympics

Canada's para-alpine team has a long history of success at the Paralympic Games, thanks in part to Lauren Woolstencroft. That success continued in Sochi, and appears likely to continue at the Pyeonchang Paralympics in 2018, she says.

Depth, diversity 'lays a strong foundation' for Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea

Canada's 2014 Paralympic alpine team members include, clockwise from top left: Kurt Oatway, BJ Marcoux (guide), Mac Marcoux, Kirk Schornstein, Braydon Luscombe, Alex Starker, Chris Williamson, Alana Ramsay, Josh Dueck, Kimberly Joines, Caleb Brousseau and Matt Hallat. (Malcolm Carmichael/Alpine Canada)

What’s impressed me the most about the Canadian para-alpine ski team in these 2014 Paralympic Games is the depth and diversity of the amazing performances seen so far. 

It’s true, we won more medals as an alpine team at the Paralympics in 2010; however, those medals in 2010 were won by just four athletes.

In Sochi, five alpine athletes have won medals, only one of whom is a repeat medallist from 2010.

The depth of this team really shows the strength of the para-alpine program in Canada and lays a strong foundation for more for the 2018 Games in Korea. 

Here are my thoughts on a few highlights:

Mac Marcoux:  Mac is 16 years old and won one gold and two bronze medals at these Games. I was 19 at my first Games and I thought I was so young!

Being a first-timer can be daunting and intimidating, but what I like most about Mac’s skiing is the maturity he’s demonstrating. He’s been thrown some curve balls — switching out his guide one week before the start of the Games, variable snow and weather conditions and losing communication with his guide right before the start of the super-G — but he’s handled these without issue. 

Mac is already a success story – but so much more to come from him in the future.

Braydon Luscombe: Braydon had a spectacular run on Tuesday and finished second in the slalom portion of the men’s standing super combined.  The men’s standing category is very competitive and currently dominated by Europeans, so for Braydon to crack into the top three on this run shows that he’ll be a real force in the coming years as they build towards Korea in 2018.  

Women’s Standing Team: The Canadian women’s standing team has a strong history at the Paralympic Games and have won medals at every single Games since the first Winter Paralympics in 1976 in Sweden — until now.

Instead, we’ve seen a contingent of three young women, all under the age of 20, who are building towards Korea.  Lead by Alex Starker, who won three bronze medals at the 2013 World Championships, there is no doubt that Canadian women will be back dominating this category before too long.

Chris Williamson and Nick Brush: Bronze in the men’s visually impaired slalom: I was fortunate to be Chris’s teammate for 12 years on the national team through three Paralympic Games. Chris’s success on the World Cup is legendary, but he’s never been able to translate as much success onto the Paralympic stage; in Vancouver, he and Nick walked away without a medal.

Watching him come back from a serious leg injury suffered eight months ago, ski without his regular guide and win a bronze in his first race of this his fourth and final Paralympics is really incredible and well deserved!  No doubt his experience rubs off on the rest of the team. 

Men’s Sitting Category: Great depth shown in this category from Canadians with three medals from two different athletes, Josh Dueck and Caleb Brousseau, with Kurt Oatway right on their heels.

Team Behind the Team: Led by athletic director Brianne Law and head coach Jean-Sebastien Labrie, the team behind the team is an amazing group of passionate and dedicated individuals who drive this program.  In the four years since 2010, the team has endured several athlete retirements and an extensive list of injuries to athletes, yet the coaching staff has continued to build an extremely cohesive team that push each other and put a strategy in place to ensure they perform when it counts. Mission accomplished!

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