• Alex 50km Lahti Champion
    • Canada's Paralympic History 1976-1998

      January 1, 2011

      The following pages briefly highlight the story of Canada’s participation in the cross country skiing events of the Paralympic Winter Games since 1976. While each Paralympics is a major story in itself, space permits but a short recap of the people, placings and efforts by Canada to field the best teams possible over the last 26 years.

      In 1948, Sir Ludwig Guttmann organized a summer sports competition involving World War II veterans with a spinal cord injury in Stoke Mandeville, England. Winter disability sports started gradually after World War II, as large numbers of injured soldiers and civilians tried to return to their skiing activities. Early pioneers such as double-leg amputee Sepp Zwicknagl from Austria experimented with skiing using prostheses.  Four years later, competitors from Holland joined the Stoke Mandeville Games and the international movement, now known as the Paralympics, was born. Olympic style games for athletes with a disability were organized for the first time in Rome in 1960. In Toronto in 1976, other disability groups were added and the idea of merging together different disability groups for international sport competitions was born. The first Winter Paralympic Games took place in Sweden in 1976. 

      The Paralympic Games have always been held in the same year as the Olympic Games. Since the Seoul Summer Games (1988) and the Albertville Winter Games (1992) they have also taken place at the same venues as the Olympics. On 19 June 2001, an agreement was signed between IOC and IPC securing this practice for the future. From the 2012 bid process onwards, the host city chosen to host the Olympic Games will be obliged to host the Paralympics as well.  The next Paralympic Winter Games will take place in Salt Lake City (2002), USA. For the first time, there is just one combined Organizing Committee for both the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.   In 2004, the Summer Games will be held in Athens, Greece. On June 19, 1999, Turin won the bid for organizing the 2006 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

       Paralympic Winter Games

      Year

      Location

      Disabilities included

      Number of Countries

      Number of Athletes

      Shared Venue with Olympics

      Highlights

      1976

      Örnsköldsvik, Sweden

      Blind
      Amputee

      14

      250 +

      No

      Demonstration event: sledge racing

      1980

      Geilo, Norway

      All locomotor disabilities

      18

      350 +

      No

      Demonstration event: Sledge down-hill racing

      1984

      Innsbruck, Austria

      All locomotor disabilities

      22

      350 +

      No

      Demonstration event at Olympics in Sarajev giant slalom; three track skiers

      1988

      Innsbruck, Austria

      All locomotor disabilities

      22

      397

      No

      sit-skiing introduced as event in alpine and nordic

      1992

      Tignes-Albertville, France

      All locomotor disabilities

      24

      475

      Yes

      Demonstration event: alpine and cross-country skiing for athletes with mental disabilites

      1994

      Lillehammer, Norway

      All locomotor disabilities

      31

      1000 +

      Yes

      Sledge hockey introduced

      1998

      Nagano, Japan

      All locomotor disabilities

      32

      571

      Yes

       

      It was in the 1970s that cross-disability skiing competitions started. In 1974, the first world championships were held in Grand Bornand in France, which featured alpine (downhill) and nordic (cross-country) skiing for athletes with amputations and visual impairments. Today, athletes from each disability class compete in each event. Visually impaired athletes ski with a sighted guide who directs them using an intercom or a loud speaker. Above-knee amputees use a single ski together with ski poles. Below-knee amputees use prostheses and compete in the same way as able-bodied skiers compete. Double-leg amputees or athletes with spinal cord disabilities use sit-skis. Athletes with arm amputations ski without poles.

      Canada’s cross country team is Paralympic ranked 12th with 7 total medals.  The women’s team has won all of the medals.  Sandra Lacour (B2) of Canmore (guided by her husband) and Francine LEMIRE (LW2-9) of Corner Brook have both won a gold and bronze and Colette Bourgonje (LW10-12) of Saskatoon has won 2 silver medals.  Colette Bourgonje has competed and medalled in both Summer and Winter Paralympics.  At Salt Lake City, Colette will be competing in her 7th Paralympics – quite a feat!  Sandra and Francine are both ranked 101st in multi-medals (gold, silver and bronze) and 118th by total medals.  Colette is 128th in multi-medals and 118th by total medals.

      Rank

      Nation

      Men

      Women

      Total

      Rank by

       

       

       G

       S

       B

       T

      G

      S

      B

      T

      G

      S

      B

      T

      Total

      1

      Norway (NOR)

      41

      22

      16

      79

      20

      16

      7

      43

      61

      38

      23

      122

      2

      2

      Finland (FIN)

      32

      29

      32

      93

      23

      10

      12

      45

      55

      39

      44

      138

      1

      3

      Russian Federation (RUS)

      15

      16

      13

      44

      13

      10

      5

      28

      28

      26

      18

      72

      4

      4

      Germany (GER)

      16

      31

      18

      65

      6

      11

      1

      18

      22

      42

      19

      83

      3

      5

      Sweden (SWE)

      2

      10

      9

      21

      10

      4

      10

      24

      12

      14

      19

      45

      5

      6

      France (FRA)

      11

      4

      10

      25

      0

      0

      0

      0

      11

      4

      10

      25

      9

      7

      Austria (AUT)

      5

      7

      6

      18

      5

      10

      8

      23

      10

      17

      14

      41

      6

      8

      Poland (POL)

      7

      5

      11

      23

      1

      0

      5

      6

      8

      5

      16

      29

      8

      9

      Switzerland (SUI)

      3

      7

      12

      22

      0

      4

      6

      10

      3

      11

      18

      32

      7

      10

      United States of America (USA)

      3

      3

      3

      9

      0

      1

      1

      2

      3

      4

      4

      11

      10

      11

      Canada (CAN)

      0

      0

      0

      0

      3

      2

      2

      7

      3

      2

      2

      7

      12

      12

      Ukraine (UKR)

      3

      0

      0

      3

      0

      1

      3

      4

      3

      1

      3

      7

      =12

      13

      Denmark (DEN)

      0

      0

      0

      0

      1

      0

      2

      3

      1

      0

      2

      3

      15

      14

      Italy (ITA)

      0

      1

      3

      4

      0

      2

      4

      6

      0

      3

      7

      10

      11

      15

      Netherlands (NED)

      0

      0

      0

      0

      0

      1

      3

      4

      0

      1

      3

      4

      14

      16

      Czech Republic (CZE)

      0

      0

      0

      0

      0

      1

      1

      2

      0

      1

      1

      2

      16

      =16

      Japan (JPN)

      0

      1

      1

      2

      0

      0

      0

      0

      0

      1

      1

      2

      =16

      =16

      Spain (ESP)

      0

      1

      1

      2

      0

      0

      0

      0

      0

      1

      1

      2

      =16

      19

      Kazakhstan (KAZ)

      0

      0

      0

      0

      0

      1

      0

      1

      0

      1

      0

      1

      20

      20

      Great Britain (GBR)

      0

      0

      2

      2

      0

      0

      0

      0

      0

      0

      2

      2

      =16

      21

      Estonia (EST)

      0

      0

      0

      0

      0

      0

      1

      1

      0

      0

      1

      1

      =20

       

      ORNSKJOLDSVIK, SWEDEN, MARCH  1976

      The first Paralympic Winter Games were held in 1976 in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden. There were competitions in alpine and nordic skiing for amputee and visually impaired athletes, and a demonstration event in sledge racing.    Canada sent 2 athletes to the first Paralympics - Brent MUNROE   and Lorna MANZER. 

      Complete Canadian Results (Class definition -- disability):

      Athlete

      Class

      Long

      Medium

      Short

      Relay

      MUNROE Brent

      LW4

       

       

      17

       

      MANZER Lorna

      LW4

       

       

      1

       

      GEILO, NORWAY, MARCH, 1980

      The success of the first Games led to the second Winter Paralympics in 1980 in Geilo, Norway. Here, a demonstration event was held in sledge downhill racing. All classes of athletes with locomotor disabilities were able to participate.   

      Mary BRUNNER, Judy SHAW, Dawn COYLE, and Janet SCHUSTER combined in the Women's Relay (4 x 5 km) to win 3rd.  But the men’s team (consisting of Bill THOMPSON, Philip CROWSON, Stephen DAWES Stephen, and CONWAY William) were not able to answer the women’s challenge in the Men's Relay 4 x 10 km.  The team consisted of 9 skiers.  The blind skiers were part of the Ski For Light (Canada) program.  Ski For Light is an outreach program of Sons of Norway.  The inaugural meeting of Ski For Light Canada was held in Edmonton, Alberta (November, 1978). Einar Berg, at that time the Secretary of the US Ski For Light, attended that meeting and was influential in the formation of the Canadian program. Although the Canadian Ski for Light actually began in 1978, the official incorporation took place in Edmonton on February 4, 1981. Kaare Askildt was elected President and Annar JACOBSEN became the Vice-President and head coach of the cross country team for the 1980’s.

      Athlete

      Class

      Long

      Medium

      Short

      Relay

      THOMPSON Bill

      B1

      19

      17

       

      6

      CROWSON Philip

      B1

      22

      22

       

      6

      DAWES Stephen

      B1

      27

      23

       

      6

      CONWAY William

      B2-B3

      21

      18

       

      6

      BRUNNER Mary

      B1

       

      10

      10

      3

      SHAW Judy

      B1

       

      12

      12

      3

      COYLE Dawn

      B2-B3

       

      8

      8

      3

      SCHUSTER Janet

      B2-B3

       

      9

       

      3

      ERIKSON Janet

      B1

       

       

      13

       

      INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA, MARCH, 1984

      The 1984 Paralympic Winter Games were held in Innsbruck, Austria. For the first time, an exhibition event was held at the Olympic Winter Games in Sarajevo and 30 male three-track skiers took part in the giant slalom event.   The 1984 Paralympic team was the largest Canadian team so far with 6 women and 4 men (a full team would consist of 52 skiers).  Again the best results were in the relay.

      Athlete

      Class

      Long

      Short

      Relay

      LEMIRE Francine

      LW2-9

      4

      4

       

      LECOUR Sandra

      B2

      5

      5

      3

      UMBACK Kimmo

      B2

       

      7

      3

      KELLY (Barnes) Lorraine

      B2

      12

      12

       

      RIDDELL Cathy

      B2

      13

      13

       

      LOVEGROVE Tricia

      B1

       

       

      3

      VISSER Jim

      B2

      21

      20

      4

      KEHOE Tim

      B2

      25

      12

      4

      CROWSON Philip

      B1

      13

      14

      4

      RINKE Larry

      B1

      16

      19

      4

      INNSBRUCK, AUSTRIA, MARCH, 1988

      The 1988 Winter Paralympics were again held in Innsbruck, Austria. The Paralympics were not held at the same Olympic venue in Calgary, Canada, because of financial and recruiting difficulties. A blind cross country exhibition race was held at the Calgary Olympic Winter Games in 1988 at Canmore.

      A total of 397 athletes from 22 countries took part in the 1988 Innsbruck Paralympics. The USSR competed for the first time. Sit-skiing was introduced as another event in both the alpine and nordic competitions.  The 1988 Paralympics produced our best results with 2 first place finishes by Sandra Lacour (B2) of Canmore (guided by her husband) and Francine LEMIRE (LW2-9) of Corner Brook and a relay 3rd.  ANNAR JACOBSEN was the head coach in the 1980’s and guided the team to these impressive results. 

      Ross Watson, a blind skier, also went on to climb Mount Everest in 1998.  Francine Lamire practices family medicine in Corner Brook and became President of the Family Physicians of Canada.

      Athlete

      Class

      Long

      Short

      Relay

      LEMIRE Francine

      LW2-9

      1

      n/a

      3

      ANTOSIEWICZ Paulina

      B3

      n/a

      4

       

      LECOUR Sandra

      B2

      n/a

      1

       

      UMBACK Kimmo

      B2

      n/a

      7

      3

      LOVEGROVE Tricia

      B1

      n/a

      5

      3

      ROSENBERG George

      B2

      n/a

      14

       

      VAN DYKE David

      B2

      n/a

      17

       

      WATSON Ross

      B1

      n/a

      17

       

      Albertville, France, 1992

      The 1992 Games were held in Tignes, Albertville in France. As there were no facilities for ice sport, only alpine and nordic events were held. For the first time, there were demonstration events in alpine and cross-country skiing for athletes with mental disabilities but Canada did not send athletes with a mental handicap until 1994. 

      In some ways it was a "changing-of-the-guard" as many of the team, including 2 time Paralympian by Sandra Lacour and Francine LEMIRE, that had represented Canada well for many years, hung up their skis at the end of the 1988 Paralympics.  Both still race abled bodied loppets today in their respective provinces.  Colette Bourgonje was recruited from wheelchair racing.  Kaspar Wirz joined the team first as a guide in 1992 and then as the head coach after the 1994 Paralympics.

      Athlete

      Class

      Long

      Medium

      Short

      BOURGONJE Colette

      LW10-12

       

      6

      6

      DITTMAN Kris

      B1-3

      12

       

      13

      HARRISON Joe

      LW2-9

      10

      5

      10

      PAGE Patrick

      B1-3

      14

       

      16

      HARRISON Joe

      LW2-9

      10

      5

      10

      Lillehammar, Norway, 1994

      In line with the change to hold the Olympic Winter Games every two years after the Olympic Summer Games, the next Paralympic Winter Games were held in 1994 in Lillehammer, Norway. Some 1,000 athletes were housed in the wheelchair-accessible Paralympic village. The opening ceremony on 10 March took place in the presence of the Queen of Norway.   The 1050-meter-high mountain Hafjell, one of the toughest courses ever for athletes with disabilities, was the scene of the fast and dramatic events in alpine skiing.  Lillehammer 1994 marked the debut of sledge hockey, the Paralympic version of ice hockey that quickly became a crowd-drawer. In the final, Sweden scored the only goal against Canada in penalty shootout to take the gold medal.

      The nordic and biathlon events were held at the Birkebeineren Ski Stadium. The Norwegians claimed the gold in the nordic sit-ski relay. German athlete Frank Hofle won a clear victory in the men’s 5km race and also the biathlon in his class. Norwegian Anne Helene Barlund was fourth in the women’s 5km classic, but took a gold in the 15km classic. In the women’s biathlon, Marjorie Yvette Van de Bunt from the Netherlands won the gold in the amputee division, while Anne-Mette Bredahl-Christiansen from Denmark took the gold in the visually impaired category.  Host country Norway dominated sledge racing, the Paralympic version of speed skating. Brit Mjaasund Oyen won the women’s 100m and 500m, while Lars Andresen took the gold in the men’s 100m and 500m. The closing ceremony on 19 March in Hakon’s Hall was attended by the King and Queen of Norway. The host team did itself proud by garnering the highest number of gold medals.

      Joe Harrison of Saskatoon became the first Canadian to compete in the Paralympic biathlon event.  Colette Bourgonje came oh so close to winning a bronze medal.  In fact for 30 minutes, she did but the Italian team protested their skier’s classification.  Italy won the protest and Colette was 4th.  Colette had to wait until the 1996 World Championship in Sunne Sweden to capture Canada’s first sit ski medal.

      Athlete

      Class

      Biathlon

      Long

      Medium

      Short

      Relay

      HARRISON Joe

      LW2-9

      8

      5

      11

      10

       

      BOURGONJE Colette

      LW10-12

       

      4

      4

      4

      4

      DITTMAN Kris

      B1-3

       

      16

       

      15

       

      KELLY Lorraine

      B1-3

       

      7

      5

      7

      4

      LOVEGROVE Tricia

      B1-3

       

      6

      7

      6

      4

      Nagano (Hakuba), Japan, 1998

      The 1998 Games in Nagano, Japan was the first Winter Paralympics to be held outside Europe, and helped to enhance the integration of athletes with disabilities and to deepen international goodwill. The Games were held from 5 to 14 March. His Imperial Highness the Crown Prince of Japan officiated at the opening ceremony on 5 March.   During the 10 days of competition, a total of 34 events took place across the 5 sports: alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, biathlon, ice sledge racing and ice sledge hockey. Some 1,146 participants from 32 countries were at the Nagano Games, including 571 athletes and 575 officials. Norway repeated its success at the 1994 Games by topping the medal table with 18 golds. Germany was close behind with 14 gold medals, followed by the United States with 13 gold medals.

      The Nagano Games clearly demonstrated rising media and public interest in Paralympic winter sport. A total of 151,376 spectators were recorded during the Games, including 15,634 for the opening and closing ceremonies. A total of 1,468 media representatives (press, cameramen and broadcasters) covered the Games. The official Games website recorded a total of 7.7 million hits during the course of the Games, with 1 million hits coming in on the first and second days of competition.

      Colette Bourgonje won 2 silver medals -- the first medals for a sit skier.  The City of Saskatoon honored Colette by naming a street after her right next to Konihowski Road and Le May Crescent and Dave King Park.  For the first time, ID (Intellectually Disabled) athletes competed as a full medal sport.  Shauna Whyte, previously a junior biathlete champion, competed for the first time as a sit skier.

      Frank HOEFLE (Germany) and Ragnhild MYKLEBUST (Norway) continued their dominance of the Paralympics. Ragnhild MYKLEBUST has won 11 gold medals since 1976.   Frank HOEFLE has won 12 medals (7 gold, 4 silver and 1 bronze) and is ranked 3rd.    They both will be competing in the Salt Lake City Paralympics looking for more gold medals.  Shauna Whyte, and Colette Bourgonje of Canada hope to prevent Ragnhild MYKLEBUST from winning more gold.  Brian McKeever, guided by his Olympian brother Robin, hope to prevent Frank Hoefle from winning more gold medals. 

      Marg Tibbo, long time Team Manager, retired from the Paralympic Team in 1998.   Cross Country Canada honored her by awarding the Firth Award to her.  The Firth Award recognizes a woman who has made an outstanding contribution to cross-country skiing in Canada.  Marg Tibbo "Muggs" has a passion for working with disabled athletes and children. Since the early 1970’s, Marg has created participation opportunities for disabled people ranging from grass roots programs to international level competitions. Joyce Wityshyn, Head Coach of the Nagano Team, was one of fourteen coaches that were selected to receive Petro-Canada Coaching Excellence Awards in 2001.  The Petro-Canada Coaching Excellence Awards are presented to coaches whose athletes or teams win a medal at an Open World Championship, an Olympic Games or Paralympic Games.

      Athlete

      Class

      Biathlon

      Long

      Medium

      Short

      WHYTE Shauna

      LW10-12

      8

      10

      11

      10

      BOURGONJE Colette

      LW10-12

       

      6

      2

      2

      KELLY Lorraine

      B1-3

       

      16

      13

      13

      ROBINSON Jason

      ID

       

      18

       

      23

      BAUCHE Wayne

      ID

       

       

       

      26

      HALL Brita

      ID

       

       

       

      13

      2002 Soldiers Hollow, Salt Lake City    March 7-16

      Team:

      Brian McKeever, Calgary – Guide: Robin McKeever of Calgary

      Shauna Maria Whyte, Hinton

      Colette Bourgonje, Saskatoon

       

      Coaches:

      Head Coach - Kaspar Wirz, Saskatoon

      Team Manager – Jeff Whiting, Saskatoon

      Assistant Coach – Margaret Barron, Calgary (previously St. Johns)

      Wax Tech – Ian Daffern, Calgary

       

      Canadian Best Ever Finishes at the Paralympics

      Best Finish by a Canadian

       

       

       

       

       

      Athlete

      CLASS

      Year

       

      Long Distance

      Middle Distance

      Short Distance

      Standing (female)

       

       

       

      15 km Classic

      5 km Free

      5 km Classic

      LEMIRE Francine

      LW2-9

      1988

       

      1

       

      n/a

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Sit Ski (female)

       

       

       

      10 km

      5 km

      2.5 km

      BOURGONJE Colette

      LW10-12

      1998

       

       

      2

      2

      BOURGONJE Colette

      LW10-12

      2000 WC*

       

      2

       

       

      BOURGONJE Colette

      LW10-12

      1994

       

      4

       

       

       

       

       

      Biathlon (3 x 2.5km)

       

       

       

      WHYTE Shauna

      LW10-12

      1998

      8

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      ID (female)

       

       

       

      15 km Classic

      5 km Free

      5 km Classic

      HALL Brita

      ID

      1998

       

       

       

      13

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Standing – Blind(female)

       

       

       

      15 km Classic

      5 km Free

      5 km Classic

      LECOUR Sandra

      B2

      1988

       

       

       

      1

      LECOUR Sandra

      B2

      1984

       

      5

       

       

      KELLY Lorraine

      B1-3

      1994

       

       

      5

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Standing (male)

       

       

      Biathlon (3 x 2.5km)

      20 km Classic

      10 km Free

      5 km Classic

      HARRISON Joe

      LW2-9

      1994

      8

      5

      11

      10

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      ID (Male)

       

       

       

      20 km Classic

      10 km Free

      5 km Classic

      ROBINSON Jason

      ID

      1998

       

      18

       

      23

       

       

       

       

       

       

       

      Standing – Blind (male)

       

       

       

      20 km Classic

      10 km Free

      5 km Classic

      KEHOE Tim

      B2

      1984

       

       

       

      12

      DITTMAN Kris

      B1-3

      1992

       

      12

       

       

      THOMPSON Bill

      B1

      1980

       

       

      17

       

       

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