Woolstencroft wins 5th Paralympic gold

Lauren Woolstencroft of North Vancouver, B.C., won the standing super-combined race at the Paralympics to earn her fifth gold medal of the Games.

She is as stoic as she is dominating. What Lauren Woolstencroft may lack in flash she more than compensates for in shine.

Woolstencroft, 28, gave an arm pump at the finish, then a wave to the frantically cheering crowd after winning the standing super-combined race at the Paralympics on Saturday to earn her fifth gold medal of the Games.

"It's still setting in," said the skier from North Vancouver, B.C. "It's way more than my expectations."

Woolstencroft's teammate Karolina Wisniewska finished third in the same race to earn her second bronze of the Paralympics.

Earlier, Viviane Forest of Edmonton was second in the super-combined event for the visually impaired to earn her fifth medal of the Games.

The three women have combined to win 12 of Canada's medals at the Paralympics.

It's the first time the super-combined event has been held at the Paralympics.

Woolstencroft had a time of two minutes, 22.67 seconds to finish nearly 12 seconds ahead of the nearest competitor in the race that had a super-giant slalom in the morning and a slalom in the afternoon.

"I think the biggest challenge is just repeating day after day," she said. "I'm mentally fried. People are yelling at me and I don't even hear them.

"Today I had to have one focus and that was the race. I had great confidence coming in. I was super-prepared. I knew I had the potential but you never it's going to be that good."

Golden Games

Woolstencroft, who was born without legs below her knees and no arm below the left elbow, has won gold in the downhill, slalom, giant slalom and super-G.

She has gone about her task methodically, rarely showing any emotion. While some athletes may high-five or howl in delight at the finish, a nervous smile is about the height of Woolstencroft's celebrations.

She is in stark contrast to Germany's Gerd Schonfelder, who has won four medals. He pumps his arm and dances on the podium.

"She is a different person," said Schonfelder, who has won 22 Paralympic medals during his career while skiing with just one arm. "Everyone is different. That's her way to ski and to be."

Woolstencroft's five gold medals are the most by any Canadian at a single Winter Paralympics. She is now tied with wheelchair racer Chantal Petitclerc and swimmer Stephanie Dixon for most gold medals at a single Paralympics.

"It means a lot," said Woolstencroft. "That was never my target. I'm not a big record person. I don't think that way.

"It's more about pushing myself and being competitive in the alpine world. But to be among those athletes is a huge accomplishment. It's certainly something I had never thought about until it was mentioned here. It's pretty cool."

Woolstencroft won in a combined time of one minute, 26.84 seconds. Solne Jambaque of France was second in 1:33.51 while Wisniewska of Vancouver was third in 1:35.21.

Digging deep

Forest and guide Lindsay Debou of Whistler, B.C., had a time of 2:35.94. Skiing with a badly pulled groin, Forest has also won a gold in the downhill, silver in super-G and slalom, and bronze in giant slalom.

"I'm pretty exhausted," said Forest, 30. "We dug deep. I'm so pleased. I don't really have words right now. I think it will take a little while. When I'm sitting at home I can say 'I did it.' "

Forest came into the Paralympics wanting five medals, but admitted she had doubts after hurting herself at a training camp.

"When I injured myself it started to really play with my brain," she said. "I was nervous and not sure if I would be able to really perform.

"I did my best. I'm so pleased with what I accomplished. I can't hope for better."

Canada continued its medal haul Saturday night with a victory in the gold-medal wheelchair curling match. Skip Jim Armstrong, lead Sonja Gaudet, second Ina Forrest and third Darryl Neighbour held on to beat South Korea 8-7 as Canada successfully defended its title.

Canada has increased its gold medal count to nine, the country's best at any Winter Paralympics. The previous high was the six won at the 2002 Salt Lake Paralympics.

The country's overall medal count of 18 (nine gold, five silver and four bronze) also tops any Winter Paralympic haul. Canada won 15 medals at a Paralympics twice, in 2002 and 1998 in Nagano.

Third in standings

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 12 gold, and Russia with 11.

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

Woolstencroft's 10 medals in three Paralympics still trails the 13 alpine skier Lana Spreeman won in five Paralympics.

Wisniewska, 33, was surprised by her result.

"I beat my own expectations," said Wisniewska, who was born with cerebral palsy. "I didn't think I would get a single medal."

It was another near-medal performance for Chris Williamson of Markham, Ont., and guide Nick Brush of Kelowna, B.C. The pair finished tied for fourth in the men's visually impaired group.

"They all hurt," said Williamson, who won two medals at the 2006 Paralympics and is a two-time overall World Cup champion. "As a racing career this is probably my worst week of my life. It just makes me hungry for next year."

The women's cross-country relay team also came close to the podium.

The team of Colette Bourgonje of Saskatoon, Jody Barber of Smithers, B.C., and Robbi Weldon of Thunder Bay, Ont., and Brian Berry combined for a fourth-place finish in a time of 22:21.20 in the women's 3x2.5-kilometre relay.

"Wow, that was just so much fun out there to be racing with these girls," said Bourgonje, who has won a silver and bronze medal this week, bringing her career Paralympic medal total to 10. "That was a really good showing for us today."

The powerful Russians won the women's race in 20:23.20, while Ukraine locked up the silver in 20:42.7. Belarus was third in 22:04.20.