Paralympics: “We are not planning medals, we are trying to win them”

The 32-member Russian team won 38 medals at the 10th Winter Paralympic Games in Vancouver. The Russians retained the leading position gained at the previous olympics in Turin, but the prospects for the games in Sochi-2014 have not been depicted very optimistically, according to Vladimir Lukin, president of the Paralympic Committee of Russia, at a press conference at the “AiF” centre. He said that those who had gained medals at Vancouver would be given awards at a meeting with the Russian president planned for 30 March.  In his opinion the Russian success at Vancouver should increase the focus of the state, business and civil society on the problems of the disabled.  Paralympic sport was a sign that the disabled have equal rights to everyone and are full members of society.  If society understood this then sports for the disabled would change to a mass attraction.  At the present time only 2-4% of handicapped people in Russia engaged in sport, and this was mainly due to the fact that they could not get out of their high-rise apartment and go to a sports hall on public transport, etc. Hopes were being raised over this issue in the Paralympic Games in Sochi in 2014, which could provide an example to other regions of Russia if a barrier-free environment is created.

Lukin is rather more apprehensive about sporting achievements in the forthcoming winter paralympics.  In his view, Russia would not progress without structural changes. For example, the sports of curling, sledge hockey and alpine skiing were becoming more popular internationally but Russians were not gaining medals in these sports.  The next paralympics would require a proper training basis to attract young disabled people and incentives for trainers as well as the financial outlay on equipment.  In his words, there was no “medal plan” for paralympic athletes, and “we are not planning medals, we are trying to win them.”

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