WHISTLER - Canada didn’t own the podium at the 2010 Winter Paralympics nor did it expect it would.
But the host did achieve its goal of finishing third in the gold medal race with 10. Half of them were won by a single athlete, Lauren Woolstencroft of North Vancouver.
The 28-year-old won all five alpine disciplines for standing skiers at Whistler Creekside, where Canadian Olympians failed to win a medal in February.
The “queen of the hill” tied wheelchair racer Chantal Petitclerc’s Canadian record for most gold medals in a single Paralympics. Petitclerc won five at both the Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Summer Games.
Calgary native Woolstencroft was world champion of four alpine disciplines in 2009 and wears prosthetic limbs beneath her knees and below her left elbow.
"I'm glad that I was born with this disability and I didn't get it later in life, because I didn't have to adapt to anything,” Woolstencroft said. “It's just how I am.”
Viviane Forest of Edmonton and her guide Lindsay Debou of Whistler also made five podium trips, but to collect one gold, three silver and a bronze in visually impaired alpine skiing.
Legally blind cross-country skier Brian McKeever of Canmore, Alta. qualified for the Olympics and was aiming to make disabled sports history when coaches opted not to select him on the final weekend. He put disappointment behind him and won Paralympic gold in the 20 kilometre freestyle, 10 km classic and 1 km sprint with guide and brother Robin McKeever.
Cross-country sit-skier Colette Bourgonje of Saskatoon capped her ninth Paralympics with a silver and bronze on the trails and the Whang Youn Dai outstanding achievement gold medal at the closing ceremony.
Japan shocked defending sledge hockey champion Canada in the semifinal. The host was denied a medal when Norway scored with 3.6 seconds left in the bronze showdown.
Former able-bodied curler Jim Armstrong of Richmond, B.C. skipped his world champion rink to wheelchair curling gold against South Korea.
The Games closed on the 25th anniversary of the start of Rick Hansen’s epic Man in Motion World Tour. The wheelchair athlete rolled more than 40,000 km through 34 countries and raised $26 million for spinal cord research.
International Paralympic Committee and Canadian Paralympic Committee officials both downplayed calls for the Games to be integrated with the Winter Olympics. Critics suggest Paralympic competition before or during the Olympics would give Paralympians greater global media attention.
“We like being after the Olympic Games,” said CPC president Carla Qualtrough of Vancouver. “We will keep it where we are.”
Sochi, Russia hosts the next Winter Paralympics after the 2014 Winter Olympics.