Woolstencroft wins 4th gold medal

Lauren Woolstencroft of North Vancouver won the women's standing super-giant slalom ski race Friday for her fourth gold medal of the Paralympics.

By turning potential into podiums Lauren Woolstencroft has helped Canada win more gold medals than at any previous Paralympic Games.

Woolstencroft earned her fourth gold in as many races Friday with a victory in the standing super-giant slalom. That pushed Canada's gold-medal count to seven, bettering the six won at the 2002 Salt Lake Paralympics.

"It's more than I expected," the North Vancouver, B.C., resident said about her four wins. "I knew I had it in me.

"I have medalled in all these events in World Cups or the Games before. I knew I had the potential. The biggest thing is to repeat day after day, in such a hectic schedule."

Viviane Forest and her guide Lindsay Debou also earned their fourth medal, collecting silver in the super-G for the visually impaired.

I am feeling quite fatigued today," said Forest, 30, of Edmonton. "We dug deep.

"Lindsay helped me all the way down the course. We made it down safe."

So far, Canada has 14 medals (seven gold, four silver and three bronze) at the Paralympics. Canada has won 15 medals at a Paralympics twice, in 2002 and 1998 in Nagano.

Canada's goal at the Paralympics is to finish in the top-three countries in gold medals won. Canada currently sits third behind Germany, with 10 gold, and Russia with nine.

Canadian record

Woolstencroft's four gold is the most any Canadian has won at a single Winter Paralympics. Her nine medals in three Paralympics still trails the 13 alpine skier Lana Spreeman won in five Paralympics.

A victory in Saturday's super-combined event would tie Woolstencroft with wheelchair racer Chantal Petitclerc and swimmer Stephanie Dixon for most gold medals at a single Paralympics.

Petitclerc won five gold at the 2004 Summer Paralympics in Athens and again in 2008 in Beijing. Dixon also won five gold at the 2000 Sydney Paralympics.

Woolstencroft actually considered retiring after the 2006 Turin Games.

"I guess it's paying off," said the 28-year-old, who was born without legs below the knee and no left arm below the elbow. "We've put so much resources into Paralympic sport over the last four years. That's one of the reasons I stayed.

"I thought the team was going to get that much bigger and better."

Woolstencroft, racing for the third consecutive day, shredded the competition. Her time of one minute, 26.46 seconds was over five seconds faster than second-place finisher Melania Corradini of Italy.

Forest and Debou of Whistler, B.C. were timed in 1:37.54. Henrieta Farkasovia of Slovakia and guide Natalia Suvrtova won in 1:33.81.

Fighting through the pain

Despite being hobbled by a badly pulled groin muscle, Forest has won gold in the downhill, silver in the slalom and bronze in the giant slalom. She has raced three times in four days.

"I am slowly falling apart," joked Forest, who has won two gold medals competing in goalball in the summer Paralympics

"I'm surprised to be second. I thought I would be fifth or fourth. I'm totally running out of gas."

Debou said the pair attacked the course differently than they would have if Forest was totally healthy.

"I knew her fatigue level, so I picked a line that might be a little bit easier for us to make it down," said Debou.

Woolstencroft wasn't sure if she wanted to keep skiing after the Turin Paralympics.

"I had just graduated university," said the electrical engineer. "I had just gotten my degree. I felt I wanted to put that to use.

"I didn't think I could balance the commitments to skiing and still hold down a job."

Creating a spark

Woolstencroft was hired by B.C. Hydro, one of the local companies that supported the Games. She even helped with some of the electrical design for the Olympic venues.

"I don't think I would have been in the same situation if the Games had not be in Vancouver," she said. "Given the Games were in Vancouver, [everyone] was so excited for the Games and putting time and resources into to."

Woolstencroft hasn't decided if she will keep racing to the 2014 Paralympics. Her medal count here hasn't helped the decision.

"I'm kind of stuck in the middle," she said. "In a way I know I am skiing great and you want to keep going.

"At the same time, it's good to go out on top. I will take some time to reflect and see what happens."

It was another tough day for Chris Williamson of Markham, Ont., and guide Nick Brush of Kelowna, B.C.. They finished sixth in the visually impaired class, 2.19 seconds behind winner Nicolas Berejny of France and guide Sophie Troc.

"It's been a rough week," said Williamson, who won the 2009 super-G world championship. "I wish I had an answer why. No one to blame but myself."

Before falling near the finish in Thursday's downhill, the 37-year-old Williamson had a time that would have put him on the podium, if not win the race.

He also was fourth in the slalom and sixth in the giant slalom.

"I've always had very good success racing in Canada, until this week," he said. "It's sort of a little surprising. I can only take what I've not done this week and built on it."

Dziewior done

Canada team doctors also decided that Andrea Dziewior, who had a bad fall in the downhill, won't race for the rest of the Paralympics. The 23-year-old from Nanaimo, B.C., was badly bruised, but not seriously hurt.

"Due to the intensity of her sport, we decided that it was in her best interest to withdraw from further competition at these Games," Bruce Davidson, Canada's chief medical officer, said in a release.

"Andrea will be able to return to active competition in the near future."

The Paralympic alpine skiing wraps up Saturday with the combined events. The combined has a downhill race in the morning, followed by a slalom in the afternoon.