October 3 - Just over five months out from the start of the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympic Games, a British Paralympic Association (BPA) delegation lead by Chef de Mission Penny Briscoe took part in a two-day visit to the host city.
The purpose of the visit was to ensure that British Paralympic officials and athletes' preparation for the Games, which are due to run from March 7 to 16, are as professional and thorough as possible, as the ParalympicsGB seeks to secure its first Games' medal since a wheelchair curling silver at Turin 2006.
Joining Briscoe on the trip were British team leaders and head coaches from the sports that will be contested at the Games, including wheelchair curling head coach Tony Zummack, ice sledge hockey team leader Red Geddes and Andrew Lockerbie, team chief for alpine skiing.
"We have maintained a really positive level of dialogue with the Sochi Organising Committee since the Chef de Mission seminar and they have been really responsive, but the opportunity to meet face to face to talk through our plans is invaluable," said Briscoe.
"It's also been great to have the team leaders and head coaches with us for this recce to get their perspective on the venues for each sport and to help them understand how logistical arrangements will work for their athletes at Games time.
"The venues are spectacular [and] both villages look incredible and will provide the optimum environment for our athletes to perform.
"This is shaping up to be a fantastic Paralympic Games, the trip has proved highly successful and I can't wait to bring the team to Sochi."
On the first day of the visit the BPA delegation met with representatives from the functional areas of Sochi 2014 before embarking on a tour of the various competition venues in and around the city and visiting both Athlete Villages.
The Coastal Village is located within the main Olympic Park in Sochi, where ice sledge hockey and curling will be held, while the Mountain Village is located 48 kilometres away and is situated close to where the biathlon and skiing competitions will take place.
ParalympicsGB aline skiing team leader Lockerbie was certainly impressed with what he saw.
"Standing on the finish line today was an incredibly motivating and exciting moment for us," he said.
"The venue and the Village are both great and we are close to everything we will need.
"Following on from our victories at the test event, we are now looking forward to coming back in just a few months for what will undoubtedly be the culmination of many years of training, planning and preparation for our athletes."
Zummack has already seen his team compete at the Ice Cube Centre in Sochi, which will host the wheelchair curling competition in 2014, during this year's World Championships which saw his Scotland team lose out to Russia in a tiebreaker match.
"We travelled to Sochi earlier this year for the 2013 Wheelchair Curling World Championships, when we had the opportunity to compete in the venue where our athletes are set to play next March," said Zummack, who will be aiming to improve on Britain's seventh place finish at Vancouver 2010.
"We're just a few months out now, so it's great to see how the Paralympic Village and other facilities that we will use at Games time have been developed.
"These final few months of preparation are absolutely vital and it has been fantastic to have the support of the BPA and the Sochi Organising Committee to ensure that we have the best plans in place."
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