'Ladoga' is the only youth sledge hockey team in Europe. Source: Press photo
In its first exhibition game in the U.S.,
Russia's Team Ladoga won 3:0. A team of judges from the NHL's
Philadelphia Flyers oversaw the action. Source: Press Photo
On Monday, Sept. 22, eight young Russian sledge hockey players flew to New York to play in some friendly matches with their American rivals. Sledge hockey is a form of ice hockey that allows people with disabilities to play the game. It was invented in Sweden in the 1960s and today is one of the most popular events in the Paralympic Winter Games. This team, called Ladoga, is the only youth sledge hockey team in Europe. The team is made up of seven boys and one girl between the ages of 12 and 15. The team was founded in 2013 in Aleksin, 100 miles from Moscow, at a training center for Paralympic athletes.
"We spoke to practically every disabled child in our neighborhood and offered him or her to play sports at our center," said Lyubov Galkina, head of the Aleksin Neighborhood Administration, explaining how the team was founded. Not all children interested in playing made the team, and others had to stop playing due to health problems, but generally the team members enjoy the experience.
"I was a swimmer from the age of five, but then I was offered to join the Ladoga team and play hockey," said the team captain, 14-year-old Stanislav Barykin. "I really liked the game and now I do both – swim and play hockey." He comes off as concentrated and confident – a real leader. Barykin says that participating in sports has changed his life by teaching him discipline, and it made his life more interesting.
In the U.S., the Russian athletes will participate in three friendly matches with the South Jersey Wings of Steel team. They will also have the opportunity to meet a few NHL players. "The team we will be playing is very experienced," said Barykin. "It's been playing for five or six years. The team has a strict selection process. But we are not intimidated. Our goal is to win."
"The main problem is the absence of other similar schools and clubs: children have no one to play hockey with," said Galkina. "The Paralympic Committee helps us, as does the Russian Hockey Federation, but I wish there were more schools like ours."
Currently, there are four sledge hockey teams for adults in Russia. In the last Paralympics, the Russian national team made it to the final match, but lost to the Americans. Their silver medal became the 70th medal in the national team's collection and set a new record. Altogether Russia won 80 medals in the contest: 30 gold, 30 silver and 20 bronze.
Transaero Airlines was instrumental in organizing the Ladoga team members’ trip to New York. Since 2008, Transaero has worked to create a barrier-free environment and improve the quality of life for people with disabilities. Transaero’s comprehensive program includes not only the adaptation of the company's services to the needs of disabled passengers, but also support for sportive and cultural events such as special competitions, endurance events, exhibitions and more.
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