Sendero Group Travel Blog

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

 

First Day of the Paralympic Games for the Presidential Delegation

Our 4 vehicle motorcade headed from Vancouver to Whistler on Saturday for the first day of Paralympic competition, specifically to see the biathlon and downhill ski races at Whistler. It was snowing but they had lots of creature comforts for us including a scarf, hat, gloves, blanket, hand warmer and seat cushion. We sat all huddled up as the athletes raced, some sitting and some standing in the Biathlon. The top Russian who ended up taking the gold, has both arms amputated above the elbow. He has a special rig so he can pull the trigger of the rifle with his teeth. Some how, he holds the rifle under his stump and didn't miss a single shot. The blind skiers were doing this too including the Canadian who was in both the Olympics and Paralympics. Andy from the U.S. captured a Bronze, the first medal of the games for the U.S.
Mike and Jennifer in the stands at the biathlon

Our motorcade then took us around the mountain for the downhill competition. This was much more comfortable. There was an indoor VIP building overlooking the course where we were warm and had food and beverage. It was a great opportunity to meet dignitaries from other teams. I particularly enjoyed speaking Spanish with the team from Spain. I had a photo taken with two women from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. We had the pleasure of meeting the Premier of British Columbia, Gordon Campbell and many others.
Mike with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Unfortunately, after 2 hours of delays, the downhill was postponed due to fog. This is the same run used in the other Olympics, quite a challenging course.


We had the distinct pleasure of being allowed into the Athlete's village. We got a tour of the facilities, the same ones for the other Olympics and we ate in the dining facility with the athletes. I met the 3 visually impaired athletes of the 50-member U.S. team, Caitlin, Danielle and Mark all high partials in the B3 category. This is a very low number of competitors compared to the 80s when we had over 15 team members. They were all fascinating people and disappointed that the downhill was postponed. They will race the slalom on Sunday but we unfortunately are scheduled to attend wheelchair curling and sledge hockey and won't see them race.


I have really enjoyed getting to know the members of our delegation. Bonnie Saint John, a single leg amputee, skied along with me in 1984 but I didn't know her then. Melissa Stockwell is an amputee swimmer from the 2004 summer games. Jim Martinson is a crazy double amputee skier from the 1992 Paralympics and still competing in the X games at age 63. The Secretary of the VA, the US Ambassador and the head of the EPA along with Kareem Dale, the President's advisor on disabilities are all down to earth amazing people.

Bonnie Saint John, Rick Hansen and Mike
Rick Hansen and Jim Martinson

I keep running across blasts from the past, people who have stayed involved in Paralympic winter sports whereas I have been out of touch since I left the board of USABA. Ted Fay for example, Martha Hill and others. I love meeting the kids from the "Paralympic Experience," young people who will be our next crop of Paralympians.


Many of you may have seen the Procter and Gamble commercials about giving to the Moms. I met people from P&G and some of the moms hear on their behalf. I love the story about the Iraqi veteran whose rehab got him back into training for the Paralympics. He knew he was on the true road to recovery when his 3 year-old son, said, Daddy, I can run with you again.

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