March 3, 2014 (ISN)- The Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games ice sledge hockey competition begins on Saturday (8 March) and is expected to showcase the deepest field of teams yet, including reigning world champions Canada, defending Paralympic champions USA and an up-and-coming squad from host nation Russia.
Top-seeded Canada, led by veteran forwards Greg Westlake and Brad Bowden, will be favoured in Group A, which also includes No. 4 Czech Republic, No. 5 Norway and No. 8 Sweden. Canada are out for revenge after failing to make the podium at their home Games four years ago.
The Czechs will search for their first Paralympic medal as head coach Jiri Briza makes his Paralympic debut behind the glass. Norway and Sweden have participated at every Paralympics in the sport, and the Norwegians have medalled at each of them. If veteran defenceman Rolf Pedersen is still at the top of his game, Norway may just reach the podium once again.
Second-seeded USA, the current world silver medallists, are eager to repeat their Vancouver 2010 success and will lean on forward Josh Pauls, goaltender Steve Cash and a contingent of war veterans in Group B.
But Dmitry Lisov and host nation No. 3 Russia will not go down without a fight on their home ice, and look promising to medal after taking bronze on the world stage in 2013. Team captain Vadim Selyukin, who lost both of his legs while serving in the military in Chechnya, built Russian the team from scratch. He launched a sports club for people with an impairment in 2004, and from there an international programme grew.
No. 7 Italy, led by Florian Planker’s powershot, and No. 6 South Korea, anchored by Seung-Hwan Jung’s speed, round out the group. Neither Italy nor South Korea have medalled at the Paralympics in ice sledge hockey.
AT A GLANCE
- Venue: Shayba Arena
- Medal events: 1
- Teams: 8
- Classification: There is only one sport class, which is for athletes with an impairment in the lower part of their body that would prevent them from playing able-bodied ice hockey.
- Paralympic Games debut: Lillehammer 1994
VANCOUVER 2010 RESULTS
- Gold: USA
- Silver: Japan
- Bronze: Norway
DID YOU KNOW?
Sochi 2014 will mark the 20th anniversary of ice sledge hockey’s inclusion at the Paralympic Games.
IPC ONES TO WATCH ATHLETES
- Brad Bowden, Canada
- Steve Cash, USA
- Seung-Hwan Jung, South Korea
- Dmitry Lisov, Russia
- Josh Pauls, USA
- Rolf Pedersen, Norway
- Florian Planker, Italy
- Greg Westlake, Canada