|PARALYMPIC ATHLETES | WILDSCHÖNAU 2004
Alpine Skiing World Championships
2004 in Wildschoenau
blue sky, friendly locals, lots of snow - the ski
resort of Wildschoenau in Austria had it all. And,
if ultra-modern sport’s equipment, designer
outfits, growing numbers of spectators and visiting
celebrities are other world-class-event’s
indicators, the conditions were right to make this
year’s Alpine Skiing World Championships a
full success. In the eyes of most participants it
all worked out well.
The athletes from as far away as South Africa and
Japan gave their best, breaking a number of world
records and - thanks to successful lobbying - the
international media decided to report extensively.
For some of the visiting youngsters, hearing stories
about how it all started, must have felt like stories
from another world.
But it was actually not that long ago, namely in
the 1940s, when the number of returning war amputees
shot up and the interest in this kind of sport started
The pioneers of disability winter sport were mostly
war amputees from Austria and Germany, young and
athletic guys who just did not want to accept the
fact that skiing on one leg or without the support
of arms or hands should not be possible.
Later those amputees were joined by athletes in
wheelchairs and also blind skiers who chose to ride
down the hills at high speed by staying close to
their sighted mates in front of them.
Most of the initial problems with unstable artificial
limbs and weight distribution have definitely been
mastered in the meantime. Watching today's world-class
athletes race down the hill says it all.
© 2004 Steffen Berk