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Disappointing finish for disabled athletes

Thomas Pfyl celebrates his silver medal on Saturday Keystone

The Swiss Olympic team has fallen well short of its goal of seven medals at the Turin Winter Paralympics, ending the games with only one silver and a bronze.

This content was published on March 19, 2006 - 17:38

Both Swiss medals were won by 19-year-old alpine skier Thomas Pfyl, who was born with cerebral palsy. Pfyl picked up silver in the slalom event and bronze in the giant slalom.

The Swiss delegation of 20 men and women had hoped to shine in Nordic skiing events, curling, as well as alpine skiing.

The final medal tally was particularly modest compared to the six gold, four silver and two bronze the Swiss team brought home from Salt Lake City four years ago.

Switzerland came 13th overall, with Russia, Germany and Ukraine winning the most medals.

Part of the reason for the poor Swiss showing was a major rule change which reduced the number of medals given out by about half, with competitor categories cut down to three in alpine skiing: sitting, standing and visually impaired.

The organisers also simplified the rules governing the events, while still guaranteeing equal chances for all athletes whatever the degree or type of their disability.

This meant that competitors saw their times modified depending on their disability, particularly in the alpine events.

Same ski slopes

The competitions took place on the same sites as the recent Olympics and the disabled athletes were treated just like their able-bodied counterparts, having to undergo anti-doping tests.

Swiss Economics Minister, Joseph Deiss, attended the opening ceremonies ten days ago, when he emphasised the importance of participating over winning.

"These athletes help raise awareness about disabilities," he said. "They are ambassadors for equality and open doors for all people suffering from disabilities."

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

The competitions were spread over four sites: Turin (ice sledge hockey), Sestrières (alpine skiing), Pinerolo (curling) and Pragelato (nordic skiing).

Around 500 athletes from 39 countries took part.

The Paralympics were first suggested in 1948 by a doctor, Ludwig Guttman, the German founder of the Stoke Mandville Games in Britain.

It was in 1960 that the first summer Paralympics were held in Rome.

The first winter competitions took place in Sweden in 1967.

Switzerland was the first country to set up a national Paralympics committee in 1989.

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