A Vancouver Islander was among the winners on Oct. 25 when the recipients of the 2019 Paralympic Sport and Media Awards were announced in Bonn, Germany.
Taking place in the International Paralympic Committee’s home city, the biennial awards supported by Allianz recognised achievements from the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in nine categories.
Nordic skiing’s Len Apendaile received the Best Official accolade. Following the Sochi 2014 Games, the Canadian worked tirelessly with the PyeongChang 2018 Organising Committee to educate them on best practices. During the Games he acted as race director for both biathlon and cross-country skiing and liaised closely with his Olympic counterparts.
“It’s great that the IPC recognises the work of its officials, the third leg of the sport stool after coaches and athletes,” Apendaile said. “I accept this on behalf of all my fellow World Para Nordic Officials who dedicate weeks of their time and energy each year to supporting the sport.
“Officials are key to the success of sports, especially smaller, highly technical sports like Para Nordic skiing. They work closely with organisers who are often delivering events for the first time and are unfamiliar with the sport, and so they play a key role in ensuring that the field of play and the delivery of the event are to the highest standards, fair, and meet the needs and expectations of the athletes, teams and the international federation.”
Apendaile has lived in Black Creek for much of the past 30 years and is a consulting professional forester working on the north and central Island. He got involved with the Campbell River Discovery Nordics ski club in the late 80’s and mid 90’s and went on to found the Strathcona Nordic Ski Club which is celebrating its 20th anniversary this season.
He became involved with the International Paralympic Committee and Para Nordic Skiing when they hosted the IPC Para Nordic World Cups in 2007 and 2009 with Mount Washington Alpine Resort. These were early test events for the 2010 Paralympic Games used to develop Canadian officiating capacity for the Games, Apendaile said.
“I went on to join VANOC as the cross-country skiing sport manager for OWG (Olympic Winter Games) and PWG (Paralympic Winter Games) in 2009/2010 and was joined during the games by a team of over 20 key officials from Vancouver Island,” he said.
Following the 2010 games, Apendaile became involved with the IPC sport technical committee governing the sport internationally and is currently the Head of Technical Control and Officiating responsible for World Para Nordic Skiing officials worldwide.
He got involved in the Sochi games in 2014 as technical delegate (head referee) and subsequently assumed the role of world para nordic race director for the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang.
Korea was a four-year project involving several trips a year to prepare the venue and support the Koreans with planning and preparation for the games.
The Korean Games broke many records for a Paralympic winter games, raising the bar, particularly with respect to broadcasting and outreach for the Paralympic Movement, Apendaile said.
Para Nordic Skiing involves the two sports of cross-country skiing and biathlon which take place in the same venue, featuring the same athletes who do both sports, and an integrated schedule. There are three classes of athletes (sitting, standing, and visually impaired) from both genders competing in separate medal events.
This means there are six competitions per day running on an integrated schedule with the sports accounting for 50 per cent of the medals at the Games.
“Add in weather vagaries and different formats, technical requirements and broadcast schedules each day provides a sense of the complexity,” Apendaile said. “The race director’s role is to ensure that the competitions and related activities run according to plan. During the games I led a team of 12 international officials including four from Vancouver Island who started with me in 2007.
“The award was a great honor and recognition of the often-unseen work of the team of event officials that goes on behind the scenes to allow the athletes to compete and inspire us with their achievements.”
The award was announced last week in Bonn, Germany at the General Assembly of the International Paralympic Committee on their 30th anniversary. Apendaile is now working on course and venue design with Beijing for the next Paralympic Winter Games in 2022.