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Guide swap cements Canadian para-alpine team's hunger for Paralympic podium

SOCHI, RUSSIA, March 5, 2014 /CNW/ - Canada's Paralympic alpine team has successfully overcome the challenges of an injury and a last-minute guide shuffle between visually impaired skier Mac Marcoux and Chris Williamson, demonstrating its strength as a team and its potential as a serious medal threat at the upcoming Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, which begin on March 7.

Dynamic brother duo Mac Marcoux and Billy Joe Marcoux, of Sault-Ste Marie, Ont., have excelled on the world stage since making their debut on the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World Cup circuit in 2012, racking up nearly 10 World Cup podiums, a silver medal at world championships, and two national titles. Mac, 16, is visually impaired and is guided by Billy Joe, 19.  This past week, as they prepared to go for gold at the Paralympics, an ongoing back issue forced Billy Joe to step aside as his brother's guide, ending their hope of competing at the Games as a pair, but fuelling Mac's desire to stand on the Paralympic podium.

Though they won't compete together, Billy Joe will be by Mac's side at the Games and will be there to cheer his brother on at every turn, hoping to continue to help Mac realize his goal of winning a medal for Canada. Mac will instead be guided by Mont-Tremblant, Que.'s Robin Fémy, who is teammate Chris Williamson's regular guide. Williamson, a three-time Paralympian from Toronto, Ont., with more than 100 IPC World Cup podiums, will reunite with his guide from the Vancouver 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, Nick Brush, of Invermere, B.C.

"It was an incredibly difficult decision, but the evidence is there that tells us it's the right thing to do," said Brianne Law, program director for the Canadian para-alpine team. "We don't want to put BJ at risk of further injury, and it's our job to give Mac the greatest chance at success possible. He has previously trained and raced with Robin and they have had done really well together, and Chris and Nick are obviously very familiar with each other, so it was an easy choice. I can't wait to see what they can do."

Mac and Fémy raced together last week and the IPC World Cup Finals in Tarvisio, Italy, and won gold in super combined, erasing any doubts that they can succeed as a team.

"It means so much to me that BJ has already gotten me this far. It's pretty unexplainable, actually," Mac said of his brother's commitment to his success.  "It's a real bummer that he's not competing in Sochi, but he'll still be there, and we're still a team, so we'll make the best of it. He won't be the one skiing in front of me, but he got me here."

"I'm still keeping my eye on the top - still striving for the top."

"Robin is a great guide and I know Mac will still be able to get it done," added Billy Joe. "I will be with him for every moment of the Paralympics… It has been a life accomplishment being able to guide him this far and it is disappointing that we couldn't go all the way together, but I am just happy to be part of the road to Sochi."

Mac and Fémy will compete in all of the alpine skiing events at the Sochi 2014 Paralympics, beginning with downhill on March. 8. Williamson and Brush are scheduled to race slalom and giant slalom.  For a full race schedule, go to http://www.sochi2014.com/en/paralympic/schedule-and-results.

SOURCE Canadian Paralympic Committee (CPC)

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