These Vancouver Island residents will be officiating at the Paralympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea. From left: Len Apedaile, Francoise Ducret, Tom Kennedy, Marc Lyster and Joe Bajan. Photo supplied

Island officials off to Paralympics

Len Apedaile is leading a 10-person team of officials at the Pyeongchang Games.

As race director for cross-country skiing and biathlon, Black Creek resident Len Apedaile will be leading a 10-person team of officials at the Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Past president of the Strathcona Nordics Ski Club, Apedaile is the head of technical control and officials for the World Para-Nordic Skiing Federation. He’s been travelling to Korea the past four years to support the technical planning of the Nordic events at the Games, which run from March 9-18. His team includes Vancouver Island Biathlon Club officials Joe Bajan of Nanaimo and Francoise Ducret of Victoria. Courtenay’s Marc Lyster — Nordic manager at Mount Washington – and Tom Kennedy of Comox will provide expert snow and course preparation, and grooming services at the Games.

“Marc and Tom are there as foreign expert groomers,” Apedaile said, noting the complexities of grooming for para-nordic skiing. “For the Paralympics, I insisted we bring some foreign expert groomers with us.”

Each of the five became involved in the sport when Mount Washington hosted Paralympic World Cups in 2007 and 2009, from where they participated in the Vancouver 2010 Winter Games. Apedaile, Bajan and Ducret also went to Sochi in 2014.

The team working at Pyeongchang represents a growing body of Canadian technical experts who work behind the scenes, providing opportunities for athletes to maximize their potential as they compete at the highest levels of their sport.

“Our athletes have a packed schedule, alternating between biathlon and cross-country,” said Apedaile, a volunteer firefighter in Oyster River. “In the Paralympics, we have three categories of athletes.”

The categories are sitting, standing and visually impaired, each of which has sub-categories, which are assigned a percentage.

“In principle, if the athletes were equally trained, they should finish in the same time.”

Biathlon incorporates an electronic shooting system that uses sound for aim. Visually impaired athletes ski with guides, who are equipped with waist packs containing speakers.

“That’s how the athletes follow them around,” Apedaile said. “They hone in on sound.”

About 670 athletes will compete at the XII Paralympic Winter Games — a 24 per cent increase from Sochi. The number includes a 44 per cent increase in the number of female competitors since 2014. Pyeongchang will feature six sports, with 80 medal events in total. Snowboarding will be expanded into a separate discipline for 2018, with 10 medal events.

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