Tough task for defending ice sledge hockey champions at Sochi 2014
Tuesday, 29 October 2013
October 29 - America face a tough task if they are to successfully defend their Winter Paralympic ice sledge hockey title at Sochi 2014 following the announcement today of the preliminary groups.
The draw was made following last week's final qualifying tournament in Turin which saw South Korea, Italy and Sweden secure the final three places for the eight team tournament.
After beating Japan to win gold in Vancouver in 2010 the United States have been seeded second for Sochi and will face hosts Russia, South Korea and Italy.
Led by forwards Josh Pauls and goaltender Steve Cash they will pose a strong challenge once again but will certainly also have a target on their backs.
In particular the presence of the host nation, the third seeds, Russia will pose a big challenge.
Russia have never won a medal in the sport but after taking a bronze medal at the 2013 World Championships and, with the home crowd behind, will be confident about making an impact this time.
Group A will be led by Canada, the world number one seeds and reigning world champions, who will face Norway, Czech Republic and Sweden.
After ending the five year stranglehold of the US at the World Championships earlier this year, they will hoping for similar success at the Paralympics after finishing a disappointing fourth at Vancouver 2010.
Their main challenge is expected to come from Norway, who have won a medal at every Paralympic competition since it made its debut at Lillehammer 1994 and beat Canada in the bronze medal match in Vancouver.
A veteran Czech squad, seeded fourth, will also mount a stern challenge, while the remaining team in the group, Sweden, will be similarly experienced having competed at every Games.
The complete schedule of games will be revealed closer to the time of the Paralympics, which are due to start on March 7.
October 2013: South Korean shoot-out success denies hosts gold at Ice Sledge Hockey Qualification Tournament
October 2013: South Korea, Italy and Sweden secure Sochi 2014 ice sledge hockey places
September 2013: Gold medal winning US ice sledge hockey captain retains role for Sochi 2014
April 2013: Canada defeat USA to claim title at Sledge Hockey World Championships
April 2013: USA set to face Canada for gold at IPC Sledge Hockey World Championships