By Duncan Mackay

Goyang 2013 Opening CeremonyApril 12 -  This year's International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Sledge Hockey World Championships A-Pool opened in Goyang, South Korea, today, with a cultural Opening Ceremony.

The sport's eight best teams will take to the ice over the next eight days to compete for the world title, with the top five finishers automatically qualifying for Sochi 2014. 

The United States enter the event as the defending world and Paralympic champions and are already on track to medal in their fourth straight Games in Sochi next year.

Led by forward Alexi Salamone and defender Taylor Chace, the Americans have won all their tournaments in the 2012-2013 season thus far.

South Korea, anchored by Seung-Hwan Jung, won a surprise silver at last year's event and could be tipped to make the podium again this year as the host nation, with many picking the star-studded Canadian squad led by Greg Westlake to win it all.

Between them, Canada and the US have won four of the last five World Championship A-Pool events.

With Sergey Smoylov coaching their team, the Russians may also prove themselves contenders in Goyang following their gold-medal performance at the 2012 IPC Ice Sledge Hockey World Championships B-Pool last November, just two years after starting up their programme.

The Championships will take place at the Goyang SPART Complex and ParkThe Championships will take place at the Goyang SPART Complex and Park

Other rivalries could also play out in Goyang, with both the Czech Republic and Italy, as well as Norway and Sweden taking part in the Championships.

The event will be the largest in the sport before Sochi 2014 is taking place at the Goyang SPART Complex and Park, organised by the Korea Ice Hockey Association for the Disabled.

It is the first time an Asian country hosts the World Championships A-Pool.

"Having being in Sochi last month, I received a tour of the Shayba Arena, the spectacular 7,000-seat venue built next to the Black Sea, which will stage next year's [Paralympic] competition," said IPC chief executive Xavier Gonzalez.

"IPC President Sir Philip Craven described it as 'the jewel in the crown' of the Sochi venues and said that if he was an ice sledge hockey player he'd want to take to the ice straight away and get playing.

"Clearly there is a lot to play for here in Goyang, and I wish all teams the very best of luck."

All games at the Championships will be streamed live on the IPC's YouTube channel, which also showed the Opening Ceremony live.

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