UBC’s Andrea Bundon and Paralympic skier Margarita Gorbounova bring the best out in each other at the Sochi Paralympic Games
Imagine strapping on a pair of skis only 60 millimetres wide and launching yourself onto a course at full speed, without being able to see ahead.
That’s the challenge for Canadian Paralympic cross-country skier Margarita Gorbounova, who has between five and 10 per cent vision. But this is where recent UBC doctoral graduate Andrea Bundon comes in. Bundon is a guide whose job is to ski just a few metres ahead of Gorbounova and give her the information she needs to race her best.
“I ski the course as I would if I were racing but I give her a running account of what I’m doing,” says Bundon, “I’ll tell her I’m pushing over the top of the hill and going into a tuck, or I’m starting my turn to the left, for example. This way she gets about a five second warning. I also tell her where other competitors are, if the snow conditions are changing or if someone has fallen and wiped out on the tracks.”
Bundon says she can keep up with Gorbounova for now but it is getting harder and harder. She has to ski the race like she wants to win but have enough left over to keep talking.
“Margarita and I are pretty closely matched so I have to push to keep in front of her,” she says. “I’m a far better skier now than I was 10 years ago when I was racing myself because I’ve had to challenge myself technically to be able to stay ahead.”
The two met at the 2010 Paralympics in Vancouver and began skiing together a couple of years ago. It was difficult–Gorbounova was based out of Ottawa and Bundon was working on her PhD in Kinesiology at UBC. Nevertheless the pairing seemed to work. Bundon and Gorbounova have qualified for all events in both cross-country skiing and biathlon for the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Games.
The pair will decide which events to race once they meet up in Sochi, but their priority is the five-kilometre skate race on the last day of the Games. Bundon is excited to be on her way to Russia and says if it weren’t for Gorbounova she wouldn’t get the chance to compete at this level and participate in the Paralympics.
Bundon has always been an athlete, competing in both rowing and cross-country skiing. She says that having the chance to participate in disability sport and study it has given her a unique perspective.
“I think able-bodied sport could learn a lot from disability sport,” she says. “Able-bodied sport places a high value on independence but in disability sport there is a greater appreciation for working together and more of a focus on interdependence.”
Bundon’s doctoral work explored how athletes with impairments are using the Internet to advocate for disability rights, and promote disability sport. In January, she moved to England to begin a postdoctoral fellowship at the Peter Harrison Centre for Disability Sport at Loughborough University. Her research will look at the sport experiences of youth with disabilities in the wake of the London 2012 Paralympic Games.