Paralympic hopefuls preparing for Vancouver
Ukraine’s paralympic team has experienced a major boost in the amount of training and support it receives in recent years as part of a largely unheralded but worthy effort to give the country’s physically disadvantaged athletes every possible advantage on the world stage. The results have been emphatic – since finishing in 21st place in the medal table at the Sydney Paralympics in 2000, Ukraine has rocketed up to sixth and then fourth place at successive Games. Meanwhile, in the Winter Olympics progress has been even more extraordinary – from finishing 18th in Salt Lake City in 2002, Ukraine rose to 3rd (2nd in terms of actual number of medals won) in Turin in 2006.
Ukraine’s team of 19 athletes will be hoping to build on this phenomenal progress at the coming Vancouver Paralympics, which are due to start in early March. The transformation of Ukraine’s paralympic team into one of the world leaders in this inspirational sphere is partly down to the super human efforts of one man – National Paralympic Committee Head Valeriy Shushkevich, who has been at the helm of physically disadvantaged sport in Ukraine since 1996 and is himself a champion disabled athlete. Mr. Shushkevich was in Lviv region’s Carpathian Mountains recently to mark the opening of a new training facility and sports centre designed for use by Ukraine’s paralympic athletes. The new centre, which has been established by the National Committee of Sports for the Disabled, is located in the village of Verhnye and offers sportsmen the chance to practice both downhill skiing and more grueling cross-country biathlon treks. The site was chosen both because it offers a wide variety of different skiing conditions in the immediate vicinity and also as it is conveniently located just 10km away from Polish border. The new facility is expected to function as a hotel and will likely be called into service during the expected boom period of June 2012 when the region hosts Euro 2012 group stage matches.
For the time being, though, this welcome new addition to Lviv’s tourism-friendly infrastructure is being used to prepare Ukraine’s world beating winter paralympic team ahead of yet another guest for Olympic glory.