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Page last updated at 10:30 GMT, Monday, 22 March 2010

Winter Paralympics lacks party atmosphere

Canadian Paralympians
Canadian Paralympians arrive at Sunday's closing ceremony in Whistler

By Mike Bushell and Graham Bell
BBC Sport at the Winter Paralympics

Despite the Canadian hosts enjoying a record-breaking Games, in many ways the Winter Paralympic party in Vancouver never really got going.

With fewer athletes and fans than at the Olympics, it was always going to be hard to create a carnival atmosphere at the 10th Games.

In Whistler, where the skiing events took place and the hosts won nine of their 10 gold medals, it was still rocking and rolling.

But down the Sea to Sky highway in Vancouver, although the atmosphere at both the curling and the sledge hockey was deafening at times, there was a sense of anti-climax around.

Make no mistake: the city is gorgeous, clean and friendly, with beautiful parks and beaches, set against a permanent backdrop of ice-capped mountains.

However, apart from the opening ceremony, there wasn't much evidence that the Games were on.

It is a far cry from the Olympics, when the host nation united like never before to "Own The Podium" and the streets of Vancouver were awash every night with Canadians wearing all manner of patriotic sporting outfits partying together.

GB wheelchair curling skip Michael McCreadie
GB skip Michael McCreadie ponders the options

Great Britain's interest in the Games centred on the wheelchair curling and alpine skiing events, and it proved to be a mixed campaign for most of the 12-strong team.

Sport can be cruel sometimes, and it was so close and yet so far for curlers as their campaign ended with a disappointing sixth place.

The Paralympic team won silver at the last games in Turin and, with three members of that team returning, had spent four years working on their master-plan to turn silver into gold.

In the end, their fate was decided by two penalty shoot-outs - extra-end defeats to both the United States and Sweden cost them dearly.

Although an overall record of three wins and six defeats looks bad, a couple of centimetres here and the rub of the ice there and the outcome would have been so different.

In reality, Great Britain should not have been in such a sticky position but their form was too inconsistent throughout despite having spent the last two years pioneering a controversial new tactic.

In wheelchair curling there are no sweepers to affect the course of the stone once it is on its way. Once it's gone, it's gone and you just have to watch and pray.

GB came up with the idea that if you deliver the stone from much further back, and we are talking four metres behind the delivery line, you give yourself greater options.

It certainly raised eyebrows and the team would not always throw from this far back, but too often the stone went too far or came up short.

So what now for the team? It seems skip Michael McCreadie will not be at the next Winter Paralympics, except in a coaching role, with Aileen Neilsen, who skipped for the last game, an academic win over Japan, a natural successor.

GB's Rose crashes out of Super-G

The team will hope the performance in Vancouver doesn't affect their funding and they have new players coming through the ranks as they build towards Sochi in 2014.

The skiing team certainly had plenty of newcomers on show, with only Russell Docker and Sean Rose having experienced Paralympic action before.

They did not come away with any medals but will not want to throw the baby out with the bath water just yet.

A mixture of bad luck, bad judgement and equipment failure effectively cost Rose a medal in Whistler.

Questions should be asked as to why his bindings released twice, once in his one and only training run and again in the super-G.

Skiers may expect that to happen once every couple of years, but twice in a week suggests something more fundamentally wrong.

Rose suffered pure bad luck in the giant slalom - the dreaded yellow flag, meaning the racer before him had crashed and forcing him to stop mid-run.

In his favourite event, the downhill, Rose will know he skied too conservatively, and will be disappointed not to have risked more.

On a positive note, he should still be around in four years' time, plus Anna Turney and Kelly Gallagher have shown promise.

British sit-skier Anna Turney
Sit-skier Anna Turney enjoyed a promising Paralympic debut

Ski racing is not an exact science, and even the best-equipped teams in the world cannot guarantee results, but with the right backing there is no reason not to hope for more from Scochi 2014.

Overall, however, Great Britain expected to win a medal coming into these Games.

There is a sense of disappointment within the squad that they didn't, and there will be a lot of hard work ahead before Sochi.

The standards are rising across all of the Winter Paralympic sports and, although Russia topped the medal table, other countries like Japan and Korea have seen some very positive results.

There is clearly a need to encourage more British talent - young and not-so-young - to come through and make their mark in the winter programme.

But the International Paralympic Committee believes this has been a successful Games and it sets things up nicely for London's turn in 2012.

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see also
Winter sports pledge as Games end
22 Mar 10 |  Disability Sport
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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