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Wednesday, 6 March, 2002, 08:45 GMT

Paralympics in a Winter wonderland

The eighth Paralympic Winter Games are set to take place in Salt Lake City, Utah.

For only the second time the Games are being held outside Europe, following the 1998 Winter Paralympics in Nagano, Japan.

And for the first time ever, there is just one combined organising committee for both the Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Just 10 days after the Winter Olympics concludes, the Paralympics will begin in the same venue.

On Thursday, 7 March, the Paralympics Cauldron Flame will enter the Rice-Eccles Olympics stadium, with competition starting the following day.

A capacity 46,500 crowd will be in attendance for the opening ceremony.

Some 500 athletes will represent 36 countries in 100 medal events.

The celebration of the determination, will, and pursuit of excellence of the world's premier athletes with disabilities will last for 10 days.

The three sports

By the closing ceremony on 16 March, the medals will have been handed out and world records will probably have fallen.

The Games are divided up into three sports:

Nordic, or Cross Country, is the oldest form of skiing and originated in northern Europe - developing in the Nordic countries as its name suggests.

Skiers compete in classical or free techniques and depending on functional disability will either stand or use a sit-ski (a chair equipped with skis).

The Nordic skiing events are divided into two areas:

The Alpine skiing section will be held in the Snowbasin Area.

In March, the average temperature is -1 degrees centigrade and an average of 127cm/50 inches of snow falls.

Athletes in all disability classes combine strength, speed and power in the same events as those in the Olympics:

Ice sledge hockey is very similar to ice hockey but the athletes use sledges with two blades, allowing the puck to pass underneath.

The players also use sticks to help manoeuvre around the ice and to direct the puck. Each team consists of five players plus a goal tender on the ice at one time.

A further six players per team are available as substitutes.

The games, played over three 15-minute stop-time periods, will take place in E centre - the home of IHL team the Utah Grizzlies.

Six teams will be fighting for the gold medal:

Norway are the defending ice sledge hockey champions and were also the most successful nation in the Nagano Games, winning 18 gold medals in a total haul of 40.

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