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March 20, 2010

Woolstencroft wins record five gold medals

Canadian skier Lauren Woolstencroft won a fifth gold medal at the 2010 Paralympic Games becoming the first ever winter paralympian to top the podium five consecutive times in a single Games.

Woolstencroft, who competes in the standing category, finished the second run of the women's super combined event with a time of 2:22:67. Teammate Karolina Wisniewska secured the bronze medal.

"It's still setting in,'' said the 28-year-old from North Vancouver. "It's way more than my expectations.''

Woolstencroft joins wheelchair racer Chantal Petitclerc and swimmer Stephanie Dixon as the only Canadian Paralympic athletes to have won five gold medals at any single Paralympic Games, winter or summer.

"It means a lot,'' said Woolstencroft. "That was never my target. I'm not a big record person. I don't think that way.

"It's more about pushing myself and being competitive in the alpine world. But to be among those athletes is a huge accomplishment. It's certainly something I had never thought about until it was mentioned here. It's pretty cool.''

An engineer from Calgary who now lives in Vancouver, Woolstencroft has long dominated Paralympic skiing.

She won 23 World Cup races between 2006 and 2008. On the World Cup circuit, the 28-year-old captured 2008 and 2009 Crystal Globes as season-long overall champion, six more globes for individual events and this season won three of her first four World Cup races.

At the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, Woolstencroft won the downhill, Super-G, giant slalom and slalom before claiming her fifth gold medal.

"I think the biggest challenge is just repeating day after day,'' she said. "I'm mentally fried. People are yelling at me and I don't even hear them.

"Today I had to have one focus and that was the race. I had great confidence coming in. I was super-prepared. I knew I had the potential but you never it's going to be that good.''

While Woolstencroft's 2010 medal haul includes only gold, other competitors have also tallied five medals.

On Saturday, teammate Viviane Forest won her fifth medal - a silver - in the women's super combined.

"I'm pretty exhausted,'' said Forest, 30. "We dug deep. I'm so pleased.

"I don't really have words right now. I think it will take a little while. When I'm sitting at home I can say 'I did it.'''

Nikolai Polukhin of Russia won his fifth medal in the men's cross-country relay and Gerd Schonfelder of Germany captured his fifth in the men's super combined.

Two other athletes will have a chance to win their fifth gold medal on Sunday - Zaripov of Russia and Verena Bentele of Germany.

Born with no legs below the knee and no arm below the left elbow, Woolstencroft uses prostheses for her lower limbs and a prosthetic left arm. In her right hand, she uses a ski pole to help her navigate the course.

Following Saturday's races, Forest, who competes in the visually impaired category, fulfilled her goal of being on the podium for every event she entered.

She also became the first woman to win gold at both the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games.

Forest won gold in the Summer Paralympic sport of Goalball in 2000 and 2004. She completes the 2010 Games with one gold medal, three silver and one bronze.

On the men's side, Canadian Chris Williamson placed fourth in the men's super combined in the visually impaired category.

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