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Page last updated at 07:30 GMT, Monday, 22 March 2010

Winter sports pledge as Games end

Sochi representative with torch
Sochi, in Russia, hosts the next Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games

ParalympicsGB pledged not to forget winter sports as the Winter Paralympics closed in Canada on Sunday, despite the focus on the 2012 London Paralympics.

Sit-skier Sean Rose bore the British flag at the closing ceremony in Whistler after GB failed to win a medal in 10 days of competition.

"London has to be a big focus but we can't lose sight of winter sports," said ParalympicsGB chief Phil Lane.

The Paralympic flag passed to 2014 host city Sochi, in Russia, at the ceremony.

After six weeks of Olympic and Paralympic competition in the Canadian province of British Columbia, the finale featured tributes to the competitors, a traditional Arctic song sung by an Inuit throat singer, and 125 disabled skiers in a torch-lit parade down the slopes of Whistler, shown on giant screens.

"A month ago we committed to the performance of a lifetime, and now leave the field of play here in Whistler exhausted. Our best has been given," said chief organiser John Furlong.

The 10th Winter Games saw more than 500 athletes from 44 countries compete in alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, sledge hockey and wheelchair curling.

Russia dominated, although there were also strong displays from Germany and the hosts Canada.

Britain's curlers, silver medallists four years ago, had a disappointing campaign, failing to reach the semi-finals.

The skiing team achieved five top-10 finishes - two apiece from the experienced Rose and debutant Kelly Gallagher and one from another newcomer, Anna Turney.

Attention now switches to the London Games, but Lane expressed contentment with the overall display of the team in Vancouver and a desire to build on that for the future.

"We've come a long, long way in terms of our winter sports team, from two skiers at Salt Lake City [in 2002] to a competitive group in both curling and alpine," said Lane.

GB's Aileen Neilson delivers a stone, supported by Angie Malone and Tom Killin
The GB curlers had a disappointing tournament

"We're very keen that Great Britain is not just represented in winter sports but competitive too, and we'll be looking at every little advantage we've gained.

"We'll analyse what went on here, where we can improve and in many cases it's small margins.

"These events are about hundredths of seconds and how we can improve in technology and equipment."

Lane added that a new initiative, focusing on the minor details needed to earn those extra hundredths, was an ambition of ParalympicsGB in the next four years.

"We're excited by some of the new talent that's coming through and we want to put together a programme that really puts all the little bits together to make the most of Sochi," he said.

"Sometimes we forget our humble origins and we have to respect the performances the guys have put in.

"It's been a testament to how far we've come that we've achieved top-10 finishes and good performances on the ice too."

International Paralympic Committee chief executive Xavier Gonzalez said that new sports like snowboarding, ski cross, a standing version of hockey, bobsleigh, luge and long track speed skating could feature in future games.

Sledge hockey fever hits Vancouver

"Paralympic sport as a whole has growing interest worldwide, and people have an appetite to watch it," he said.

"Any new sport needs to have a certain level of participation around the world, to have an organisation behind it, rules in place, all the elements in place to be able to be eligible to compete in the Paralympics.

"We are interested because the Paralympic Games needs more sports in the programme to make it more attractive, and to produce a bigger impact."

To date only one incident of doping has been discovered, after random tests discovered that Swedish wheelchair curler Glenn Ikonen was taking a banned beta blocker prescribed by his doctor to control blood pressure.

The 54-year-old, who said his doctor had prescribed the medication in Sweden and he was unaware it was banned, was given a two-year-ban and missed his side's bronze medal win over the US.

Gonzalez added that one doping case per Games is normal for the Paralympics and a total of 393 tests had been carried out.

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see also
Rose crashes out as GB disappoint
20 Mar 10 |  Disability Sport
GB skiers suffer disappointment
19 Mar 10 |  Disability Sport
Rose misses out on downhill medal
18 Mar 10 |  Disability Sport
Gallagher fourth in giant slalom
19 Mar 10 |  Disability Sport
Curlers demand 'Cup final' spirit
16 Mar 10 |  Disability Sport
GB curlers win as skiers impress
15 Mar 10 |  Disability Sport
GB team suffer poor opening day
14 Mar 10 |  Disability Sport
Winter Paralympics get under way
13 Mar 10 |  Disability Sport
Team GB ready for Paralympics
11 Mar 10 |  Disability Sport

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