Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Paralympics in full swing at Whistler

Soule takes biathlon bronze medal

Andy Soule. Photo by Getty Images

The hum of the Olympics is still in the air as elite athletes are at Whistler Creeksides north of Vancouver, B.C., Canada for the 2010 Paralympics.

Wood River Ability Program director Marc Mast is in Vancouver this week sending reports to the Idaho Mountain Express about the event.

Mast said, "The US Paralympic Ski Team consists of seven elite athletes, two downhill skiers and five nordic skiers, who all gained their competitive edge training with the Wood River Ability Program (WRAP) in Sun Valley."

Among highlights:

On Saturday, WRAP athlete and U.S. Adaptive Cross Country teamer Andy Soule, 30, of Pearland, Texas took the bronze medal in the 2.4-kilometer biathlon pursuit.

It was the first U.S. medal of the 2010 Paralympic Games and the first-ever medal for the U.S. Paralympic Biathlon team on the opening day of competition. Soule, a retired U.S. Army veteran, combined his shooting skills learned in the Army with his cross country skills to win the bronze medal.

"It felt just incredible," Soule said. "I've had World Cup wins and World Cup podiums before, but there's nothing quite like this—in this atmosphere, in front of the crowd here with everyone watching."

Soule who lost both of his legs in the explosion of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in Afghanistan, uses a sit-ski to power through the sprint races. On Sunday, Soule returned for a top-10 finish, 10th place, in the 15k Nordic long distance event at 43:32.

Mark Bathum, 51, from Seattle, competing in his first Paralympics, was 12th in Sunday's slalom for visually impaired men. He was aided by guide Slater Storey of Sun Valley. Bathum also had the fastest downhill time in training earlier in the week at Whistler.

Also competing was WRAP athlete and sister of Slater Storey, Elista Storey.

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