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Last Updated: Friday, 10 March 2006, 19:55 GMT
Turin welcomes Winter Paralympics
The lighting of the Olympic flame is celebrated with a firework display
A firework display marked the lighting of the Olympic flame
A crowd of 30,000 witnessed Italian president Carlo Azeglio Ciampi open the Paralympic Games in Turin on Friday.

The Olympic flame was lit by a human chain of athletes representing all 39 countries taking part.

Ex-Olympic ski champions Alberto Tomba and Stefania Belmondo were present, as was Juventus coach Fabio Capello.

Organisers expect 200,000 fans to attend the ninth staging of the Games, in which 58 medals will be contested in five disciplines over nine days.

There will be 486 athletes competing in Turin - the five disciplines are alpine skiing, ice sledge hockey, Nordic skiing, biathlon and curling, which is making its Paralympic debut.

GB has a squad of 20 competing - along with teams in the curling and sledge hockey, Russell Docker, Sean Rose and Liz Miller will take part in the alpine skiing.

BBC Sport gives the lowdown on the British athletes and teams taking part in the IX Paralympic Winter Games.

WHEELCHAIR CURLING

Paralympic skier Russell Docker
Docker competed in the Salt Lake City Paralympics in 2002
Great Britain are strong contenders to clinch their first Winter Paralympic gold medal as wheelchair curling makes its debut at the Games in Turin.

The five-strong Scottish team are the reigning world champions after retaining their title last year.

The wheelchair curling starts on 12 March with the semi-finals on 17 March and the gold medal match on 18 March.

But GB have a tough start, with Denmark and Switzerland - the world silver and bronze medallists - on the opening day.

The team head to Turin, buoyed by their impressive win at the Open Czech Wheelchair Curling Championships in November.

They beat Denmark 9-4 in the final.

Team GB: Frank Duffy, Michael McCreadie, Tom Killin, Angie Malone, Ken Dickson
Non-travelling reserve: Louise Dodd

ALPINE SKIING

Scotland skip Frank Duffy
Scotland skip Frank Duffy gets ready to send another stone down
Sean Rose, Russell Docker and Liz Miller are all aiming to win Britain's first Paralympic skiing medal for 12 years at the Winter Games in Turin.

Rose took overall silver in the Canadian National Championships last year, and gold in the Giant Slalom in the Meridian Cup in Colorado.

Fellow sit-skier Docker heads to his second Games, buoyed by Super G gold in last year's Europa Cup Finals.

Amputee Miller, 2005 ladies adaptive ski champion, completes the GB squad.

The three athletes are members of the British Adaptive Ski Team, which is run by national ski charity Disability Snowsport UK.

Docker, who switched to a monoski in 2004, was one of only two GB athletes who competed at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.

Rose also competes in the sit-ski events while Miller is a standing skier who uses a prosthetic leg made specially for skiing.

SLEDGE HOCKEY

Nathan Stephens
Stephens is rising star in both sledge hockey and athletics
Britain's sledge hockey team left it late grab their place at the Winter Paralympics in Turin.

The 13-man team clinched their spot with victory in the final qualifying tournament in Italy in November.

GB, ranked fifth in the world, face a tough task with opening group matches against top seeds Norway, world number four side Canada and hosts Italy.

The tournament gets under way on 11 March and concludes with the gold medal play-offs on 18 March.

The team, captained by Ian Warner, features a number of outstanding multi-sport athletes including 17-year-old Nathan Stephens.

Stevens is also a talented field athlete in the shot, discus and javelin events.

The team also includes Stephen Thomas - gold medallist in the Sonar class in last year's World Sailing Championships - former world champion powerlifter Russell Willey and former British skiing champion Philip Saunders.

But the side will miss second choice keeper Gary Vaughan who was ruled out with a blood pressure condition just over a week before the Games start

Vaughan, one of the team's most experienced players, will be replaced by Matthew Lloyd from Yorkshire.

GB squad: Philip Saunders, Gary Vaughan, Ian Warner, Matthew Lloyd, Simon Berry, Karl Nicholson, Nathan Stephens, Stephen Thomas, Russell Willey, David French, Richard Whitehead, Gary Farmer, Mark Briggs, David Hall
Coach Kevin Whiteman.

BBC COVERAGE

Television highlights of the 10-day sporting spectacle will be shown on BBC Two's Sunday Grandstand on 26 March at 1400 GMT.

The BBC Sport website's Disability Sport section at www.bbc.co.uk/sport has all the latest news and features from Turin.

There will also be regular updates on Radio Five Live, as well as reports and results on Ceefax and digital television.

GB'S PARALYMPIC PEDIGREE

Britain has won nine medals in previous Winter Paralympic Games since the inaugural competition in 1976 - all in alpine skiing.

Tignes/Albertville 1992:
Silver Richard Burt B3 Men's Giant Slalom
Bronze Richard Burt B3 Men's Super G
Bronze Matthew Stockford LW10 Men's Downhill
Bronze Matthew Stockford LW10 Men's Giant Slalom
Bronze Matthew Stockford LW10 Men's Super G
Lillehammer 1994:
Bronze James Barker LWX1 Men's Downhill
Bronze Matthew Stockford LWX Men's Super G
Bronze Richard Burt B3 Men's Giant Slalom
Bronze Richard Burt B3 Men's Super G



SEE ALSO
GB's Winter Paralympic schedule
09 Mar 06 |  Disability Sport
Facing the fear
07 Mar 06 |  Disability Sport
Curlers target final medal chance
09 Mar 06 |  Disability Sport
New beginnings
09 Mar 06 |  Disability Sport
Curling champions get Turin vote
30 Oct 05 |  Disability Sport
GB trio secure Paralympic places
10 Jun 05 |  Disability Sport
Sledge hockey side get Turin nod
12 Jan 06 |  Disability Sport
Disabled sport calendar
09 Nov 05 |  Disability Sport


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