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Paralympians return with successful Sochi experience tyler.follett@metroland.com

Sports – The Paralympics are getting better and better for cross-country skier Margarita Gorbounova. Family and friends packed the Ottawa International Airport on March 17 to celebrate the first of the city’s returning athletes. The Winter Paralympic Games in Sochi, which were her second after competing at Vancouver in 2010, featured highlights on and off the course for Gorbounova, in-

cluding a fourth place finish in the 15K cross-country skiing. The finish easily bested her previous seventh place finish in Vancouver, and was part of what made the Sochi games stand out. “The big difference between the two games was the media coverage, there was an amazing amount of coverage compared to Vancouver,” said Gorbounova, who also collected a seventh place finish in the 6K biathlon. “It felt like these were the Olympic games, whereas in Vancouver there was definitely something

Tyler Follett/Metroland

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Margarita Gorbounova is welcomed by Rick Baker, Director of the Canadian Paralympic Committee, upon her return from Sochi. Family, friends and fans will be meeting athletes at airports across the country as they return this week.

to be desired for coverage.” The experience in 2010 gave Gorbounova a better idea of what to do and how to prepare for Sochi, which she felt played a big difference. “Having been to the games before, it wasn’t a new experience to me which meant I was much better prepared than in Vancouver,” she said. Gorbounova was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, moving to Canada in 1999 with her family, living in Toronto for six years before moving to Ottawa. Her Russian roots made the adjustment a little easier for herself, while speaking in her native tongue made her one of the most popular athletes at the games. “It was really fun to be back there because I spoke Russian so people loved me, they were always so excited when they found out,” said Gorbounova with a smile. Born with cataracts, Gorbounova has almost complete vision impairment, but paraNordic skiing is in her blood. Her mother Olga Nazarenko won a gold medal for Russia at the 1992 Paralympic Games in the discipline, with her father Mikhail Gorbounov an equally skilled middle distance and European Championship-winning marathon runner. Her parents

are also visually impaired, as well as the ones responsible for introducing her to paraNordic skiing. For Gorbounova, the highlight of the games may have been the spectacle. “The opening and closing ceremonies both were amazing, they really did such an

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she said. Gorbounova will now return to her job as a FrenchEnglish translator for the federal government, boosted by the hero’s welcome received at the airport. “It’s amazing actually, I didn’t expect it, but it’s just awesome.”

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impressive job,” she said. Improvements were also made in events coverage, with every event from the games watchable either on TV or online. “Some people were upset in Vancouver with not being able to watch their races, but the coverage in Sochi was great,”

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Tyler Follett

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Kanata Kourier-Standard March 20, 2014

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Kanata Kourier-Standard March 20, 2014

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