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Paralyzed Brazilian Skier’s Teammate Takes Spot at Sochi Games

Joselane Rodrigues dos Santos will represent Brazil in aerial skiing at next month’s winter Olympics, taking the place of her training partner who suffered spinal cord damage in an accident this week.

Santos, 29, and Lais da Silva Souza, 25, only took up the sport in July in effort to become their country’s first Olympic acrobatic skiers. Souza crashed into a tree while skiing in Salt Lake City on Jan. 17 and is unable to move her arms and legs. Santos finished one place lower than Souza in the Olympic qualification standings.

Souza, who competed at two summer Olympics in gymnastics, and Santos have known each other since childhood. Santos had been at her teammate’s bedside since the accident.

“It is very important to clarify that she qualified on her own merits. She met all the classification criteria and is the athlete immediately after Lais in the qualifying list,” said Pedro Cavazzoni, the technical director of Brazil’s winter sports federation, CBDN. “It was decided that she should come and demonstrate how the snow sports program has been developed and it’s also a way to honor Lais.”

Souza and Santos were picked following a trial in May, where Canadian coach Ryan Snow tested hopefuls using a trampoline. Neither had any experience of skiing before being picked, and Souza had only seen snow once before while traveling to Ukraine for a gymnastic competition. Santos saw snow for the first in July.

Acrobatic skiing, known as aerials, was added to the Winter Games in 1994. Skiers receive marks for their display, as in gymnastics. The Winter Olympics start Feb. 7.

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