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The World's Premiere Nordic Skiing Publication Volume 21, Issues 1

Paralympic Winter Games
Salt Lake City 2002

Ten days after the end of the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, another celebration will begin when elite athletes from 35 countries take to the trails, ski slopes and ice rinks to compete in the Salt Lake 2002 Paralympic Winter Games. If you are unable to attend the Olympic Games, you still have a chance to witness world class athletes in competition at the Salt Lake area Olympic venues during the Paralympic Winter Games, March 7 – 16, 2002. The Paralympics bring world-class athletes from around the globe together to compete in a variety of exciting sports – Alpine Skiing, Nordic Skiing and Ice Sledge Hockey. Over 1,000 athletes and team officials are expected to participate.

"The Salt Lake 2002 Paralympic Winter Games provide the opportunity to see a powerful celebration of sport which awakens the mind, frees the body and inspires the spirit," said Mitt Romney, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee for the Paralympic Winter Games of 2002 (SLOC). "Paralympic athletes push themselves beyond their limits showing their resilience, vitality and agility in their drive to reach the pinnacle of excellence in sport."

Harald Guldahl of Norway in action during
the Men’s Cross Country Sitski at the 1998 Winter
Paralympics in Nagano, Japan.

In 1948, Sir Ludwig Guttmann organized a sports competition involving World War II veterans with spinal cord injuries in Stoke Mandeville, England. Four years later, competitors from Holland joined the games and the international movement, now known as the Paralympics was born. Olympic style games for athletes with a disability were organized for the first time in Rome in 1960. In Toronto in 1976 other disability groups were added and the idea of merging together different disability groups for international sport competitions evolved. In the same year, the first Paralympic Winter Games took place in Sweden.

The movement has grown dramatically since its first days. The number of athletes participating in Summer Paralympic Games has increased from 400 athletes in Rome in 1960 to 3,195 in Atlanta in 1996. In Sydney, a record number of 122 countries, or 123 delegations including independent athletes from East Timor, participated at the Paralympics, making this the largest Games in Paralympic history.

Today, the Paralympics are elite sport events for athletes from six different disability groups. Unique to the Paralympics is the classification system that enables athletes to compete on an equal level as all athletes compete with a pre-determined degree of disability. The competition emphasizes, however, the participants' athletic achievements rather than their disability.

The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) established in 1989 in Dusseldorf, Germany, is the international representative organization of elite sports for athletes with disabilities. IPC organizes, supervises and co-ordinates the Paralympic Games, the World Championships and other multi-disability competitions on the elite sports level. It is an international non-profit organization formed and run by 160 National Paralympic Committees and five disability specific international sports federations.

The Paralympic Games have always been held in the same year as the Olympic Games.

Since the Seoul Summer Games in 1988 and the Albertville Winter Games in 1992 they have also taken place at the same venues as the Olympics. In June this year an agreement was signed between the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and IPC that will continue this practice into the future. From the 2012 bid process onwards, the host city chosen to host the Olympic Games will also be obliged to host the Paralympics. The next Paralympic Winter Games following Salt Lake City will be held in Turin, Italy in 2006.

Sit-skiing was first introduced as a Nordic skiing event in the Paralympic Games in 1988 in Innsbruck, Austria. In 1992 in Albertville, France alpine and cross-country skiing for athletes with mental disabilities was presented as a demonstration event.

Paralympic cross-country events include freestyle (10 km and 15 km for women, 10 km and 20 km for men), classic (2.5 km, 5 km, 10 km and 15 km for women and 5 km, 15 km and 20 km for men) and relays (3 x 2.5 km for women and 1 x 2.5 km plus 2 x 5 km for men). Athletes are divided into three categories: sitting, standing and visually impaired.

The ranking in all cross-country skiing events is based on the fastest competition times. The starting order is designed to avoid overtaking as much as possible. Usually, the men start before the women. Each class of competitors is divided into two equal-sized subgroups by seeding. Within the subgroup the start order is decided by draw.

All individual races use single starts with half-minute intervals. A competitor who is overtaken by another must give way on the first demand with exception of the last 100 meters of the race. The relay start is held as a mass start. The exchange between legs is done by signal between two marshals at each end of the exchange zone, where the team's next competitor may start when his or her teammate passes the start of the exchange zone.

As in traditional competition, biathlon consists of cross-country skiing and shooting. Paralympic athletes ski three 2.5km legs (7.5km in total) in free technique and fire at five targets between each leg. Competitors do not carry their weapons. They shoot targets at a distance of ten meters using air guns mounted on stands. A penalty of one minute for each miss is added to the time of the competitor. Rifles for the visually impaired athletes are equipped with electro-acoustic glasses, which utilize an optronic system. The strength of the signal indicates when to shoot.

Visually disabled athletes compete with a guide who precedes the skier on the course. Visually impaired skiers follow the sound of the guide’s skis and poles on the snow. In some instances guides give verbal instructions to the skiers to assist them in the event of sharp turns or unexpected changes in the course.

The athletes, in order to compete on equal terms, are classified according to their type of disability and functional ability. The classification process helps to ensure a certain level of equality and fair competition among the athletes competing in the same category. Athletes participating in the Paralympic Games are grouped into six disability categories: Amputee: Athletes with a partial or total loss of at least one limb; Cerebral palsy: Athletes with a brain-affected disorder resulting in problems with movement and posture; Intellectual disability (not competing in 2002); Spinal cord injuries: Athletes with at least a 10 percent loss of function of the lower limbs; Visually impaired: Athletes who are affected by disorders of vision ranging from partial sight through total blindness; and Les autres (Others): Athletes who are affected by a range of conditions that do not fall into the categories mentioned above, e.g. multiple sclerosis, dwarfism.

Within each disability group, athletes are classified according to their level of impairment and level of remaining functional ability. Classification systems differ from sport to sport according to the different skills required to perform that sport. Classification assessment is performed by specialized medical and technical personnel (classifiers) who evaluate the effect of the impairment on the sport. The goals is to guarantee that the athletes competing within a class have equal or similar abilities. The classes are described by a letter, usually the initial letter of the sport and a number (S3, T44). The lower class number represents a more severe disability. The winter sports are divided into three categories: LW classes (competitors with locomotive disabilities), sitting LW classes and B classes (competitors with visual impairment). See sidebar for additional classifications.

A gold medal competition is held for the three standing categories in the LW1-9 classes, sitting LW10-12 classes and B1-3 classes.. Each competitor receives an adjusted time determined by multiplying the competitor's actual time by the factor assigned to the competitor's class. The athlete in each class or combined class group with the fastest adjusted time is awarded a gold medal.

For the short and middle distance races, classes are combined when there are too few competitors per class. When classes are combined, a percentage system is used to calculate results, taking the actual time and multiplying it by a percentage based on the competitor's class.

One of the favorites among the women in this year’s Paralympic Games is Tanja Kari of Finland. Kari, 30, who was born with one arm has had some very impressive results in past Games including: two gold medals at Albertville, two golds and a silver in Lillehammer and three golds at the Nagano Paralympic Games. She was also 24th in a field of 100 female competitors at the 2000 Finnish National Cross-Country Championships, where she competed against “able-bodied” skiers. Kari will compete in the 10km and 15 km freestyle events and the 5km classic at Soldier Hollow and hopes to ski away with three more gold medals


Since the staging of the first Games for athletes with disabilities in 1948, the Paralympic movement has achieved significant progress. During the last decades, five international sports organizations representing the disability categories were established: Cerebral Palsy International Sport and Recreation Association (CP-ISRA), International Blind Sport Association (IBSA), International Sports Federation for Persons with an Intellectual Disability (INAS- FID), International Stoke Mandeville Wheelchair Sports Federation (ISMWSF), and International Sport Organization for the Disabled (ISOD).

The 2002 Paralympic Winter Games is yet another great opportunity to witness some of the world’s greatest athletes in emotionally inspiring competition. There are 230,000 Paralympic tickets available to 100 medal events in the three sports disciplines and opening and closing ceremonies. Competition ticket prices are extremely affordable, ranging from $5.00 to $10.00 with tickets for the ceremonies costing from $20.00 to $100.00. For more information on the Paralympic Games and ticket sales visit or call 1-800-Tickets (individual tickets).

Compiled and edited from IPC, SLOC, and other web sites and submitted information. ED.

Salt Lake 2002 Paralympic Winter Games Nordic Event Schedule
All Nordic skiing events take place at Soldier Hollow.

March 7, 2002
Opening Ceremony - Rice-Eccles Olympic Stadium, 7:00 p.m.

March 8, 2002
Men's & Women's 7.5 km Biathlon (All Classes), 9 :00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

March 10, 2002
Men's & Women's Cross-Country Short Distance (All Classes), 9 :00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

March 12, 2002
Men's & Women's Cross-Country Middle Distance (All Classes), 9:00 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

March 13, 2002
Women's Cross-Country Relay, 10:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Men's Cross-Country Relay, 11:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

March 15, 2002
Men's & Women's Cross-Country Long Distance (sit-ski), 9:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m.

March 16, 2002
Men's & Women's Cross-Country Long Distance (standing & visually impaired), 9:00 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Closing Ceremony - Olympic Medals Plaza, 7:30 p.m.

Disability Classes for Nordic Skiing
Standing Athletes
  • LW2: Athletes with disabilities in one lower limb, skiing with two skis and two poles. Example: single above-knee amputation with prosthesis.
  • LW3: Athletes with disabilities in both lower limbs, skiing with two skis and two poles. Example: double below-knee amputation.
  • LW4: Athletes with disabilities in one lower limb, skiing with two skis and two poles. Example: single below-knee amputation.
  • LW5/7: Athletes with disabilities in both upper limbs, skiing with two skis but without poles. The disability must be such that the use of poles is not possible. Example: double upper-limb amputations.
  • LW6/8: Athletes with disabilities in one upper limb, skiing with two skis and one pole. The disability must be such that the functional use of more than one pole is not possible. Example: single upper-limb amputation.
  • LW9: Athletes with disabilities in one upper limb and one lower limb, skiing with the equipment of their choice but using two skis.
Sitting Athletes
  • LW10: Athletes with disabilities in the lower limbs, no functional sitting balance. Athletes with cerebral palsy with disabilities in all four limbs (functional classification), skiing with a sit-ski of their choice.
  • LW11: Athletes with disabilities in the lower limbs and a fair sitting balance. Athletes with cerebral palsy with disabilities in lower extremities, skiing with a sit-ski of their choice.
  • LW12: Athletes with spinal-cord lesion or other disabilities, with function in the lower limbs and a good sitting balance, skiing with a sit-ski of their choice.
Visually Impaired Athletes
(All classifications in best eye with best correction)
  • B1: From no light perception in either eye to light perception, but inability to recognize the shape of a hand at any distance or in any direction.
  • B2: From ability to recognize the shape of a hand to a visual acuity of 2/60 and/or visual field of less than five degrees.
  • B3: From visual acuity above 2/60 to visual acuity of 6/60 and/or visual field of more than five degrees and less than 20 degrees.

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