Sochi, Russia- (6 March 2013) - The 2014 Paralympic Winter Games will take place in Sochi, Russia from 7 – 16 March 2014 and with only one year to go, New Zealand’s top adaptive snow sports athletes are fully focussed on their goals. Adaptive skier Adam Hall and para-snowboarder Carl Murphy have travelled to Sochi to compete at a Paralympic test event and take a first-hand look at some impressive new facilities.
The Sochi 2014 Organising committee have not only designed a spectator-orientated Olympic Games but the facilities and athlete villages have been designed with the Paralympics at the forefront of their plans.
Snow Sports NZ’s Winter Performance Programme Director, Ashley Light has recently been in Sochi and shares his impressions.
“Whilst there is still work to do, Sochi is the first Paralympic city to develop two separate villages,” he says. “Unlike most Games where the para-athletes move into the Olympic village, in 2014 the Paralympians will move into their own specially built facility.
“As long as the building stays on track the Paralympians will have a facility worthy of their performances.”
“I am sure it will all be a great experience and am really looking forward to it,” says para-snowboarder Carl Murphy.”
“I’m really looking forward to racing on the venue for the 2014 Paralympics,” says Adam Hall.
Both Hall and Murphy have set themselves very clear performance goals, for the test event and the Games in one year’s time, and neither of them is in Sochi simply for the experience.
“My goal is for a podium finish,” says Murphy, “and preferably gold...”
“I know I can do it, it will just come down to who is fastest on the day. It is so close in the top six riders anything can happen!”
Snow Sports NZ’s Jon Turnbull, who will be the New Zealand Chef de Mission at the Sochi Paralympic Games in 2014, is also in Russia for the test event. “We are amped to get to Sochi,” he says. “By all accounts it’s going to be a super-fast hill with lots of terrain and a very technical hill and this will suit Adam.
“Having been to Sochi before, coming back after a year of construction and development I’m excited to see the fantastic venues we will be testing this year and using during the Games.”
A Will to Win
Adam Hall was diagnosed at birth with spina bifida – a disability that typically leaves sufferers in a wheelchair. Adam says he’s “lucky” because he is mobile and able to walk. Adam thrives on a constant diet of winter - his recipe for turning adversity into triumph.
Adam began snowboarding at the age of nine and admits to being a snowboarder at heart; however, such was his determination to represent his country at the Paralympic Games, and with snowboarding not at that time a Paralympic sport, he switched to skiing. A mere 18 months later he represented New Zealand at the 2006 Winter Paralympic Games in Torino. With talent and determination aplenty Adam was clearly destined for success and in 2010 he claimed the gold medal in standing slalom at the Vancouver Winter Paralympic Games.
Sochi 2014 will be the third time Adam has represented his country at the Paralympic level and his medal prospects are looking hopeful. He has posted a string of podium results so far this season including six first place finishes.
A New Paralympic Discipline
While alpine skiing was one of the foundation sports at the first Winter Paralympics in 1976 with slalom and giant slalom events being held, para-snowboarding will be on the programme for the first time in 2014.
“This is something a lot of people have been pushing for a long time,” says Carl Murphy. “Para-snowboarding being included in 2014 is massive for me personally and for the sport.
“Being 33 it may be my one and only shot at competing at the total pinnacle of the sport and after working so hard for the past six years I have high expectations of myself to win gold in 2014.
“I always dreamed of representing New Zealand but as snowboarding wasn’t (until now) included in the Games I didn’t really expect to ever get the chance. Now it is in the 2014 Games I will do everything I can to bring home gold for myself, my country and my family.”
If recent form is anything to go by, Carl has a strong chance of realising his dream. At his first event of the 2013 northern hemisphere season Carl claimed two golds at the International Paralympic Committee race at Landgraaf in The Netherlands. The 2012 northern hemisphere season saw a string of podium finishes including a silver at the Para-Snowboard World Championships. He also competed at the prestigious Winter X Games, where he finished in fourth place.
“I was born with only one and a half legs; however, this hasn't stopped me from getting up on a snowboard and competing at an international level,” says Carl.
A History of Success
New Zealand has won a total of 27 Winter Paralympic Games medals since first competing in 1980. Both Carl and Adam say they have been inspired by New Zealand’s history of success at previous Paralympic Games and right from the early days of the Paralympic era. Adam names Rachael Battersby, Steven Bayley and Mathew Butson as Paralympic medal winners who have particularly inspired him.
“Early on, when I was skiing and snowboarding recreationally I looked up to the current teams and wanted to be like Rach, Steve and Matt. I wanted to be as successful as those athletes and to do my best to carry on the amazing reputation of the teams’ history of success.”
For further information on New Zealand’s Winter Paralympic medal history:
While both Adam and Carl look set to represent their country in Sochi in 12 months’ time they are required to meet criteria set down by Snow Sports NZ, Paralympics New Zealand (PNZ) and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC). Up and coming sit skier, Corey Peters is also aiming to qualify for a Paralympic spot.