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Local Paralympian to broadcast from Torino

Stacy Kohut to add colour commentary for CBC during Paralympics

After officially retiring three years ago, Whistler Paralympian Stacy Kohut is going back to the Games.

This time however, instead of racing down the slopes in his sit ski to claim another medal, he’ll be in front of the TV cameras for the CBC, giving his unique perspective on the Paralympic Games in Torino.

"This time it’s all about me focusing on the other athletes," said Kohut. "It’s about me trying to help the other athletes get their point across and get their story across and it should be a lot of fun."

The sit skier, who won a Paralympic gold medal in Lillehammer in 1994, three silver medals in Nagano in 1998 and two world championship titles, will be adding his colourful commentary for the alpine events, and possibly some sledge hockey and cross country events.

And true to form, he wants to shake things up a bit.

While he admits CBC has done a great job of covering the Paralympics, he hopes to add a little extra insight.

Instead of offering what he calls the "inspirational stories" to viewers across the country, Kohut wants to take the coverage one step further and teach people about the sports themselves, not focus on the athletes’ disabilities.

"Let’s cover the Paralympics the exact same way you’d cover the able bodied Olympics," said Kohut.

These people are elite athletes first and foremost he said. Their disabilities and their inspirational stories are secondary to the competition, Kohut explained.

"Let’s hear more about sit skiing. Let’s hear more about technique. Let’s hear more about what drives these athletes. Let’s hear more about what it takes to have a perfect run in GS. Let’s talk about line selection. Let’s talk about mental preparation," he added.

"It’s time to start showcasing the sport."

Fellow Paralympian Phil Chew couldn’t agree more.

"They (the media) tend to cover the disability more than the disability sport," said Chew. "I think it should be more about the sport."

The problem as Chew sees it is that the coverage of the Paralympics in general is more the human-interest stories rather than the achievements in sport.

"With disabled people that wears a little thin," he said.

Kohut will arrive in Torino on March 6 for 14 days. The Games will take place from March 10 to 19 with roughly 600 competitors from 40 countries.

This is Kohut’s fourth Paralympic Games only this time he’ll be able to soak in a little more culture and relax in the host country.

When you’re an athlete, he said, you’re so focused on your events, in his case the downhill, slalom and giant slalom, that there is rarely time to explore. You move from the hill to you room with blinders on, he added.

"It’s going to be nice to be able to go out and just spend a couple of hours enjoying the town," he said.

He hopes Whistlerites will be tuning in as much as possible this year as the town is set to be the site of all the Paralympic events in 2010.

"It’s so important to start teaching the people of Whistler about these sports and about what it takes to get a clean edge on a sit ski or how to set up on the power play for sledge hockey or what’s going through a blind biathlete’s mind," said Kohut.

"Let’s really try to educate this country so this country can embrace 2010 properly."