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Axelsson takes aim for biathlon challenge

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09:43 CET+01:00
Håkan Axelsson, the only athlete at the Vancouver Paralympics with both a visual impairment and an amputation, is gunning for gold on Wednesday in the 12.5 km biathlon.

A former Swedish national team cross-country skier when he was able-bodied, the 52-year-old fireman had his left leg removed in 2005 after initially injuring it in 1999 in a piste machine accident on a snow course.

The amputation came nine months after Axelsson was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa following years of deteriorating vision.

Deciding he was going to participate in the 2010 Paralympics, Axelsson, a work-out fanatic, undertook a training schedule of more than 50 hours a month to realize his goal.

"I like training and skiing is very fun," he said. "It was my goal to go to a Paralympics and now I am here. The goal was to get here for 2010. After that, we have to see."

"Skiing without a guide in the B Class (visually impaired) up to 2009, he had to switch to the B2 Class where a guide skiing behind him is optional. If his sight worsens he could compete in the B1 Class (totally blind).

"It has been more difficult to ski since I have not been able to see so good, and also to have the prosthetic," said Axelsson. "If I do end up B1, I would have to talk to my family and work to see if I would participate.

"It means a lot. I like skiing. I like physical training. To me it is life."

Axelsson is also in action on Thursday in the cross-country 10 km Classic, visually impaired, before rounding off his Paralympics with the cross-country Sprint event on Sunday.

The 52-year-old is hoping for an improvement on error strewn performances in his first two events, having failed to finish the 20 km cross-country race and coming in 14th in the 2 x 3 km pursuit.

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