On the 21st March, the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup Finals were successfully completed at the "Laura" Cross-country Ski and Biathlon Center in Sochi.
The event was jointly held by the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, the International Paralympic Committee, the Russian Paralympic Committee, the Russian Ministry of Sport, the Russian Association for Physical Culture and Sport for People with a Disabilities and the Russian Blind Sports Federation.
Sochi welcomed 121 athletes from 16 countries, including 32 representatives from Russia. In total, 80 judges and over 350 volunteers worked at the events in Sochi. In addition, 85 employees of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee tested all the facilities in the venue. The starting position in all 3 events (long distance, sprint and relay) and biathlon (short and long distances) took place at the "Laura" Cross-country Ski and Biathlon Center.
In total, 26 sets of awards (a total of 78 medals) were won at the IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup Finals. Of these, 37 medals were taken home by Russian athletes, ensuring Russia finished top of the leader board.
The IPC Nordic Skiing World Cup Final was the third international Test Event to take place at the "Laura" Cross-country Ski and Biathlon Center, the second at the ski stadium complex and the first international Paralympic competition.
To ensure the Olympic track was ready for the Paralympic competitions, the track was shorted to the following distances: for seating para-athletes 800 meters, 2 kilometers, 2.5 kilometers, 3 kilometers and for standing para-athletes 1.2 kilometers, 2 kilometers, 2.5 kilometers, 3 kilometers and 4 kilometers.
Special markings and signage were created for the tracks. This was supervised by Estonian ski track expert, Assar Kütt.
Previous experience hosting the Paralympic World Championships in Khanty-Mansiysk helped the preparations.
During the competitions, the Paralympic shooting range was tested for the first time. The range, which has been successfully used at the World Cup stages, differs in length at the Paralympics. The distance in which the athlete has to hit the target is 10 meters instead of 50. In a traditional biathlon, athletes carry rifles on their backs, whilst in the Paralympic biathlon, which are always stored securely at the shooting range. Athletes in all classes only shoot lying down. Athletes with a visual impairment shoot from special electronic-sound rifles with a changing tone according to the aim towards the target.
During the competition, athletes had access to an array of amenities which helped them prepare for the Games. These included: the accessible transport, equipped for wheelchairs, snowmobiles designed for wheelchair transport, full-board in hotels and catering at the venues.
The officials working at the event worked around the clock to ensure everything went smoothly and proved themselves through their hard work and dedication.
The judges at the competition all had previous experience in Russian championships and World Cups. The panel of judges for this competition was carefully selected by the Russian Biathlon Union, the Russian Cross-Country Skiing Federation, the Federation of Physical Culture, Sport for Persons with Physical Disabilities and the Blind Sports Federation with the participation of the Russian Paralympic Committee.
Dmitry Chernyshenko, the President and CEO of the Sochi 2014 Organizing Committee, said:
"Paralympic sport has its own specific requirements. This means enhanced accessibility, service and professionalism of volunteers. We are paying particular attention to how we are preparing for Paralympic competitions. Our objective at the Test Events is to expose and take into consideration the nuances that may affect the performance of athletes so that all necessary conditions are created for them to achieve top results at the Games."
Pavel Rozhkov, First Vice-President of the Russian Paralympic Committee and Chef de Mission of the Russian national team at the Paralympic Games in Sochi said:
"The Russian Paralympic Committee is very pleased with how the event went. The tracks were well prepared and everything was well organized and the athletes performed well. This bodes very well for the Paralympic Games in 2014."
Len Apedaile, IPC technical delegate:
"It has been a great week here in Sochi. We had a difficult start with the weather, but all the competitions went very smoothly and it's been a very good test for us ahead of the Games.
The venues are great and it's a beautiful location, with incredible views and the stadium and tracks are fantastic. Overall we're very happy!”
Notes to the Editor
The "Laura" Cross-country Ski and Biathlon Center is unique as it has two separate stadiums with the start and finish zones, two separate courses for cross-country skiing, biathlon and shooting and zones for athletes to prepare before competing.
The complex is located on the peak and slopes of the Psekhako Ridge, 6.5 to 10 km north-east of Krasnaya Polyana. Laura is a turbulent mountain river with a large number of waterfalls. It starts on the southern slopes of the Assara Ridge on the edge of the Caucasus Nature Reserve.