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Paralympics Friday, 15 March, 2002, 07:11 GMT
Myklebust the star of the snow
Myklebust has been the undisputed star of the Game
Myklebust has been the undisputed star of the Games
BBC Sport's Michael Peschardt warms to the heroics of a 58-year-old Norwegian competitor - and the enthusiasm of the American public for the Paralympics

The atmosphere at these Paralympics has been absolutely fantastic.

There was some uncertainty as to whether the American public would take the Paralympics to their hearts - traditionally they haven't been huge events - but they have really embraced it.

The opening ceremony was a huge success and a lot of people rated it as better than the Winter Olympics' ceremony a few weeks ago.

It didn't have the same money and razzmatazz, but there was an awful lot of raw emotion - a real sense of occasion and meaning.

Myklebust doesn't just squeak home, she blitzes the opposition

BBC's Michael Peschardt

All the venues have been 90% full throughout, which is extraordinary. The sledge hockey - which involves a fair bit of rough and tumble on sledges - has been sold out every night.

The biggest star of the Games without a doubt has been Raghnhild Myklebust - the 58-year-old Norwegian. In fact she is probably the greatest Paralympian we have ever seen.

By the time these Games have finished we think she will have won 21 medals over the course of five Paralympics, and she is so much better than anybody else.

Myklebust does the most punishing physical events in the whole Games like sit-skiing, and is much faster and has more stamina than people half her age.

She doesn't just squeak home , she blitzes the opposition - quite an extraordinary character.

Myklehurst hates to lose, and is determined for that never to happen. She is very much the star of the Games.

Sarah Willl has won two gold medals
Sarah Willl has won two gold medals

The great personal battle between American skiing duo Sarah Will and Muffy Davis has also kept everyone captivated.

It hs developed into a very personal battle between them - Willis has two golds and Davis two silvers so far.

Britain only have two competitors here - skiers Russell Docker and Stephen Napier - and it was genuinely galling at the opening ceremony to see the huge teams of countries like Germany, Spain, Poland and Holland, and then our two on their own - it is not good enough frankly.

Our athletes are the only ones who don't have a sponsor, and - apart from their air fares and accommodation - they have to pay for everything else themselves.

It is a chicken and egg situation really - you can get Lottery funding if you are a world-class athlete, but you are never going to get world-class performances unless you get proper funding.

In the downhill Russell went into a big jump halfway down and one of his skis just smashed when he landed.

Hugely positive experience

To us it looked like it was badly designed but he doesn't have the same racing skis as the other teams because he can't afford them - it's ridiculous.

Russell came with high hopes of a medal in his own mind and he is slightly disappointed, but both of them have found the level of competition very high.

They are not used to the huge crowds they have experienced here and they admit themselves that nerves have got the better of them.

But these Games are going to get bigger as time goes on and the International Paralympic Association are desperate to get more money into the grass roots.

It is obvious from being here that winter sports are a hugely positive experience for people with disabilities.

Winter Paralympics Special, BBC Two, Thursday 21 March, 1800-1845 GMT.

Links to more Paralympics stories are at the foot of the page.

Links to more Paralympics stories

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