Canada fights off upstarts S.Koreans to retain Paralympic wheelchair gold

08:41, March 22, 2010      

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Canada successfully defended its Paralympic wheelchair curling mixed title on Saturday in beating South Korea 8-7 in a tightly fought gold medal game in front of 5,000 spectators in Vancouver.

Led by skip Jim Armstrong, Canada got the home crowd fired up early when it opened with three points on its way to a 4-0 lead after two ends. After South Korea picked up a point in the third, the hosts built up what seemed an insurmountable lead with four points in the fourth following two good draws from Armstrong.

South Korea, making its initial Paralympic wheelchair appearance, however, roared back. With two points in both the fifth and sixth ends and singles in the seventh and eighth, South Korea was within a point and looking at an upset. With two South Korean stones in scoring position in the eighth, Armstrong eliminated any chance of a comeback when he knocked out one of the rocks to preserve the win.

Following the victory, Armstrong, a dentist by trade who started using a wheelchair in 2007 because of knee and back injuries, paid tribute to his late wife who died last year. "She was here. Last spring when she was diagnosed with cancer, she wanted two things. She wanted one more Christmas and today. I knew she was here today."

In the other match, Sweden beat the United States 7-5 for its second consecutive Paralympic bronze in wheelchair curling.

At Whistler, China's young cross-country skiers got a close-up look at the skill level of the top Europeans when the team finished eighth and last in the men's relay 1X4 km + 2X5 km.

The three-man team made up of sit skier Fu Chunshan and standing skiers Cheng Shishuai and Zou Dexin recorded a combined time of 44:06 over the 2X2 km sit and the 2X2.5 km standing courses, 5:11.8 behind the 38:54.8 winning time posted by Russia.

The Ukrainian team grabbed the silver medal, 21.9 seconds off the pace, while bronze medalist Norway was 55.1 seconds back.

Russia also took the gold in the women's relay 3X2.5 km at the Whistler Paralympic Park course, followed by Ukraine and Belarus.

In the downhill, Canada's Lauren Woolstencroft won her fifth gold medal of the Games with a dominant performance in the women's Super Combined - standing, 12.5 seconds faster than silver medalist Solene Jambaque of France. Karolina Wisniewska of Canada picked up the bronze.

"I had to be super focused today, but obviously I am so happy," said Woolstencroft who has now won eight career Paralympic gold medals. "I really didn't expect this. With so many people yelling at me this week, I' m mentally fried."

The North Vancouver resident, an electrical engineer, was born with legs below the knee and without her left arm below the elbow. "I'm glad that I was born with this disability and I didn't get it later in life because I didn't have to adapt to anything. It's just how I am," she said.

In the Super Combined - sitting, American Stephani Victor added a gold to her Paralympic medal haul after winning silvers in the Slalom and Giant Slalom earlier in the week. Austria's Claudia Loesch took the silver for her fourth medal of the week, and Alana Nichols of the United States got the bronze.

Slovakian Henrieta Farkasova won her third gold medal of the Games in the women's Super Combined - visually impaired, ahead of silver medalist Viviane Forest of Canada who achieved her goal of medaling in all five Alpine events at Whistler. American Danelle Umstead was third, her second bronze of the Games.

Gerd Schonfelder captured his fourth gold of the Games, and 16th career gold in six Paralympic appearances, when he won the men's Super Combined. The win came only hours after the German legend received news that his wife had given birth to the couple's second child.

France's Vincent Gauthier -Manuel earned the silver, and Cameron Rahles-Rahbula the bronze, the fourth medal of the Games for Australia.

Other results saw Slovak Jakub Krako win his third gold of the Games in the men's Super Combined - visually impaired, ahead of Italian Gianmaria Dal Maistro. Slovakian Miroslav Haraus won the bronze, his second of the Paralympics.

On the strength of its Alpine ski team, Germany leads the medal count with 23, including 12 gold. Russia is second with 30 medals and 11 gold, while host Canada is third with 18 medals, including nine gold. Slovakia (11 medals), Ukraine (17), the United States (10), Austria (11), Japan (9), Belarus (8) and France and Norway with six each, round out the top 10.

Source: Xinhua
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