Russia Takes 2nd at Paralympics
Published: September 12, 2012 (Issue # 1726)
LEFTERIS PITARAKIS / AP
Yelena Ivanova (l) won three gold medals in racing events at the 2012 Paralympics in London Ś her first Paralympics.
MOSCOW Ś Theánationĺs Paralympic team came inásecond overall atáthe London games, winning 36 gold, 38 silver andá28 bronze medals.
They fared much better than their regular Olympic counterparts, who came ináfourth with 24 gold, 25 silver andá33 bronze. TheáParalympiansĺ medal tally was also twice that ofátheir previous summer finish ináBeijing, where they placed eighth.
ôThe results have exceeded all our expectations,ö Oleg Smolin, aáfirst deputy president ofáthe Paralympic Committee, told TheáSt. Petersburg Times onáMonday.
ôWe came inásecond ináthe gold medal tally,ö Smolin said, adding that Russia took part ináonly 12 ofáthe 20 disciplines.
Smolin said that although theáteam did not have anáofficial medal forecast fromáthe get-go, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak believed that theáteam would end up ináthe top five.
Runner Yelena Ivanova became aástar ofáthe games, winning three gold medals ináracing events. This was her first Paralympics.
ôI canĺt even express my feelings. My dreams came true andáthere is nothing more toádream about,ö Ivanova, aáChuvashia resident who suffers fromácerebral palsy, told R-Sport agency last week.
Swimmer Oksana Savchenko took home five gold medals, theámost ofáany member ofáthe Russian team, andáclaimed aáworld record ináthe 50 meters freestyle.
ôShe is just simply aávery beautiful woman whose stature andácharacter could put her among theábest ináthe Olympic team if not foráher problems with eyesight,ö said Andrei Mitkov, chief editor ofáthe All Sport news agency, who worked as aápress attache foráthe Paralympic team ináBeijing.
Smolin said aácombination ofáôfighting spiritö andástate support foráthe athletes helped theáRussian team achieve its spectacular results.
Observers said theáappointment ofáseasoned politician andáformer ambassador toáthe United States Vladimir Lukin toáhead theáParalympic Committee played aápositive role inábringing attention toáthe sport.
ôHe is aápolitical figure, anáideological banner,ö theáAll Sports agencyĺs Mitkov said about Lukin, who has been re-elected several times since his first appointment iná1997.
Lukin, who praised theáParalympic teamĺs performance atáthe London games, also cautioned theáathletes toánot ôexaggerate theásignificanceö ofátheir achievements.
ôThe Russian athletes trailed too far behind theáChinese, who prepared foráthe games very seriously,ö Lukin said, Itar-Tass reported Sunday. Theáfirst-place Chinese team got twice as many medals as second-place Russia.
TheáParalympic medal winners met with President Vladimir Putin onáTuesday toábe awarded with medals.
Theágold medal winners were expected toáget 100,000 euros ($130,000), silver winnersáŚ 60,000 euros, andábronze winnersáŚ 40,000 euros. Theásums are equivalent toáthose given toáregular Olympic winners.
Officials have noted that considerable funding played aárole ináhelping theáRussian Paralympians.
InáJune, aáParalympic training center was opened ináthe Tula region after aá1.7 billion ruble ($54 million) refurbishment.
ôThe disabled athletes are grateful because they were not used toáfinancial support,ö Smolin said.
But he said more money is needed toáachieve higher results inámore expensive sports like horse riding. ôToday we are more successful ináthe less expensive types ofásports,ö he said.
Theágovernment started toápay more attention toáthe Paralympics team after aáremarkable winter games ináVancouver iná2010.
TheáParalympic team came inásecond overall, trumping their regular Olympic counterparts, who came iná11th.
This year, theáParalympic team has made top officials happy once again.
ôOur Paralympic team performed brilliantly ináLondon. They are extremely brave andástrong people. Well done!ö Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev wrote ináEnglish onáTwitter onáMonday.