By Tom Degun

Nikko Landeros_21-10-11October 22 - Four athletes have made the shortlist for the Paralympic Games Debut Category at 2011 Paralympic Sport Awards with the winner set to be announced in December, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) have announced.

The award, presented by the IPC's international partner Allianz, will go to the athlete who produced the standout performance at their first Paralympics at Vancouver 2010 in and American ice sledge hockey star Nikko Landeros (pictured above left) heads the candidates for the awards.

In 2007, the now 22-year-old from Colorado lost his legs when he was struck by another car while changing a flat tyre.

Shortly after the accident, the former wrestler and American football defensive lineman took up the sport of ice sledge hockey and quickly made the national team before being selected for the United States 2010 Paralympic team.

The decision paid off as Landeros proved the standout performer in the USA's gold medal winning team in Vancouver as the punishing defenceman, who looks set to become an all time great in the sport, led the team through their unbeaten Paralympic campaign.

Next up for the award is 19-year-old Ukrainian Alpine skier Oleksandra Kononova whose right hand was infected with the bone disease osteomyelitis as an infant, leaving her with a right hand that is shorter than her left one.

Kononova put on a stellar performance at Vancouver 2010 as she stormed to three gold medals and a silver, with the youngster looking set to pick up many more in the future.

Maria Iovleva_21-10-11
Russian star Maria Iovleva (pictured), who is both deaf and paralysed, also makes the shortlist after winning a gold and a silver in Vancouver.

Iovleva, who began competing at the age of nine, will now look to build on her superb debut Paralympic performance at her home Games in Sochi in 2014.

The final and youngest athlete on the shortlist is Sweden's visually impaired Alpine skier Zebastian Modin, who at just 15-years-old, won bronze in the cross country skiing sprint classic style.

It was a remarkable achievement considering that Modin was the youngest competitor from any nation to compete at Vancouver 2010, though he claims he is motivated by his enjoyment of the sport rather than a drive to win medals.

The award winner will be announced during a special ceremony that will coincide with the 2011 IPC General Assembly in Beijing this December where the best male, best female and best team from Vancouver 2010 will also be revealed.

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