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  • IOC Athletes Commission Battle Norwegian NOC in Sledge Hockey


    (ATR) Learning to maneuver doubled-bladed sledges and donning unfamiliar gear, members of the IOC Athletes Commission and Norwegian National Olympic Committee squared off for a friendly game of ice sledge hockey.

    IOC athlete reps on the ice in Lillehammer (ATR)
    The fast-paced, highly physical version of ice hockey, played by Paralympians since the 1994 Lillehammer Paralympics, was played at a considerably slower and much less physical manner earlier this week.

    “I wanted to score a goal so badly, but I kept falling over,” said four-time U.S. hockey Olympian Angela Ruggiero. “It’s so much harder – I can’t stop, I can’t shoot, I can’t do anything right.”

    The contest was played at an outdoor rink near Lillehammer’s Håkon's Hall mostly for fun, but also to raise awareness for athletes with disabilities within the Paralympic movement.

    The sport leaders, some former Olympians, said attempting the Paralympic sport, where participants carry two sticks, that also serve as ice picks to propel the sled, is much tougher than it looks.

    Norwegian NOC secretary general Inge Andersen takes the ice. (ATR)
    “It was really tough and hard – you need balance and you need to train,” said Norwegian NOC secretary general Inge Andersen. “This is an excellent idea and super for the sport of sledge hockey, for the disabled and the whole Paralympics idea.

    “This is fun and the idea of the whole Youth Games,” Andersen said, referring to the ongoing Winter YOG in the Norwegian Olympic town.

    Fortunately for all, Paralympic sledge hockey champion Todd Nicholson was on the ice at the fun-filled affair. The Canadian five-time Paralympian, who is the Paralympics representative on the Athletes Commission, gave pointers and taught teammates how to shoot the puck without toppling over.

    “It was lots of fun – it was good for the athletes commission to take the time, come out and give it a try,” Nicholson said. “Thanks very much to the Norwegian group for setting this up.”

    Ruggiero, the IOC coordination commission chair for Lillehammer 2016 and Hockey Hall of Famer, was spotted tussling with and shoving opponents when the referee was not looking. She praised her new teammates.

    Claudia Bokel on the ice without her helmet. (ATR)
    “Claudia (Bokel) was fearless out there, she was a good sport and willing to take a hit,” Ruggiero said. “Todd was M.V.P., but he has a clear advantage, and overall Barbara (Kendall) had a good showing.”

    “Getting to the puck was quite difficult, but it was fun,” Bokel said. “And to have a Norwegian goalie – I think that saved us.”

    IOC member and former Swedish high jump great Stefan Holm was seen ripping around the ice at top speed.

    There was loads of laughter and good times had by all during an entertaining two-period match.

    Norway’s ski federation president Erik Foste scored one of two goals as the Norwegian All-Stars shutout the IOC Athletes Commission team 2-0.

    “This was difficult and I have a lot of respect for those doing it,” Roste said. “It was a good promotion for sport and I was proud to be on the winning team,” he said with a laugh.

    “We were offside a couple of times, our forecheck was weak and the best team prevailed,” Ruggiero joked.

    Ruggiero on a sledge for the first time (ATR)
    Norwegian Social Democratic Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre played for the Norwegian group.

    “This is the spirit of Lillehammer these days – people mingle, they get together and share very informal times together,” said Støre, also Norway’s former Minister of Foreign Affairs.

    Regarding a potential Norwegian Olympic bid for 2026, Støre said: “I’ve always been a supporter of the idea and I believe Norway should be among those countries who could do this in a sober, modern way with all our volunteers contribution.

    “We had this unfortunate run and now the world of sports has to think that through very carefully and then we in politics have to respond to their ambitions,” he said.

    Ruggiero summed up the afternoon and her first foray into the sport positively.

    “I’m a huge supporter of the Paralympics and sled hockey in particular,” Ruggiero said. “You just appreciate the skill so much more after trying it.”

    Check out footage of the sledge hockey event below:

    Schedule Changes and Attendance at YOG

    Due to Lillehammer weather forecasts calling for potential snow and winds on Saturday, four events have been moved up to Friday.

    The events are the Nordic ski jumping and cross country mixed team, snowboard slope-style and ski slope-style.

    According to organizers, more than 100,000 spectators have visited Lillehammer during the first six days of the Winter Youth Olympic Games.

    The figure includes the opening ceremony, sport competition and the cultural Sjoggfest program.

    Sport competitions were seen by 61,190 spectators, while 30,232 have visited Sjoggfest events. The opening ceremony at the Olympic ski jumping arena on Feb. 12., was witnessed by 13,000.

    Ice hockey taking place at two venues has been the most attended sport at over 15,600, while figure skating is second at just over 7,000 in Hamar.

    The attendance totals includes “Dream Days” – a program in which children and teachers from local schools take field trips to the events.

    There are three more days of competition, with the closing ceremony on Feb. 21.

    Written by Brian Pinelli in Lillehammer.

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