Get Ready for the Sochi Paralympic Winter Games!

Are you  as excited as we are for the Sochi Paralympic Winter Games? If you’re not ready for the upcoming week-plus of thrilling competition, we hope this post will bring you up to speed. so you’ll be prepared when nearly 700 people with disabilities from 45 countries converge on Sochi to vie for the Gold, Silver and Bronze in five sports.

 On your mark. Get set. Go!

The Paralympics Opening Ceremony takes place on Friday, March 7. The competition begins the following day with men’s and women’s alpine skiing and runs through Sunday, March 16, when the Closing Ceremony wraps things up. The official Paralympics 2014 website has the full schedule here, and you can navigate from that page to daily schedules of all the events or the schedules for specific sports.

In the event you’re not going to Sochi—even though there’s a strong possibility it’ll be warmer there next week than it is here in Boston—there will be an unprecedented amount of broadcast coverage and live streaming video online. NBC and the US Olympic Committee have joined forces to present 52 hours of coverage across NBC and its sports affiliate, NBCSN. There’ll be 27 hours of live coverage spread over the duration of the games, beginning with the March 7 Opening Ceremony at 11am on NBCSN.

The network will cover all five Paralympic winter sports: Alpine skiing (including snowboarding), cross-country skiing, biathlon, ice sled hockey and wheelchair curling (if you’re like most people and have no idea what curling is, learn more about it on the Paralympic 2014 site). On top of that, will live stream all of the competition at its website.

Who to watch

There are a handful of inspiring athletes from Massachusetts competing in Sochi next week. Check out Alpine skier Laurie Stephens of Wenham, a 30-year-old who was born with spina bifida. Stephens earned two gold medals at the Torino 2006 Paralympic Winter Games and a silver in Vancouver in 2010. We can’t wait to see what she’ll bring home this year!

Meghan Lino of East Falmouth will also be in Sochi, as an alternate on the Wheelchair Curling team. Like Stephens, Lino was also born with spina bifida. But that hasn’t stopped her from becoming one of the top two women wheelchair curlers in the country. Lino was recently profiled as part of’s regular feature “14 for 14.” Learn what kind of music psyches her up for a match, the inspirations behind her two tattoos, and who her favorite WWE wrestler is. Lino also confesses that when her coach first suggested she’d someday make Team USA, she though he was nuts.

“He told me and my four Cape Cod Curling Club teammates, after we had met previous members of the U.S. wheelchair curling team, that we would be them one day. I looked at him like he was crazy,” she recalls in the profile. “I never dreamed I’d make it this far, but now I am the No. 2 female in the country. I am excited to be a part of Team USA.”

You can also learn more about Lino and her Paralympics teammate David Palmer of Mashpee in this excellent piece that ran on WGBH earlier last week. Palmer, who became a paraplegic after a motorcycle accident in the early 1990s, is competing in his first Paralympics, and speaks movingly about how curling has changed his life.

Aside from our local athletes, there are some other stellar athletes competing on Team USA. Our friends over at the blog JJ’s List did a post on five athletes to watch in Sochi, three of whom are Army veterans who became disabled in the course of their military service. But we’d like to call your attention to the only woman on the list, one Monica Bascio, who has taken multi-tasking to a whole new level. Bascio, a Paralympic Silver medalist, will be competing in cross-country skiing this winter, but she is also a champion handcyclist. There’s some great video of a close race in London on her website.

Read up on all of the Team USA members here.

The Paralympics are one of the few ways our society acknowledges and celebrates the athletic abilities and achievements of people with disabilities. We here at Partners for Youth with Disabilities look forward to the spirited competition and wish all of the Paralympians the best of luck in Sochi (but especially Team USA).

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