Vancouver (AFP) -
As with many of the participants at the Vancouver Paralympic Winter Games, Swiss Nordic team coach Walter Sporri became involved in disabled sport through the needs of others.
With his wife confined to crutches after childhood polio, Sporri, an avid cross-country skier, became a cross-country technician before moving on to biathlon where he participated in national championships.
He has been the coach of the Swiss Nordic Paralympians since the 2006 Games in Torino.
"Cross-country is my life. It's a joy. Alpine gives me no joy," said the gregarious Swiss.
Such joy, however, comes at a personal price as Sporri and his two-person team used their personal vacation to come to Canada, mostly at their own expense.
The team received some funding from Swiss Olympic, an organization representing the country's sports federations, but nothing from the government.
"It's hard. We are not professional. I do not get a salary (for coaching)," he laments, adding it's difficult to attract young people to the sport.
In nine Paralympic appearances, cross-country skiers have accounted for 49 of Switzerland's 141 medals; Alpine skiers the rest.
"We have a little sponsorship, same for (Paralympic) Alpine. There is a lot of money for able-bodied Alpine in Switzerland but we are not so interesting in the media.
"Disabled sport is secondary, but it is a sport like any other. The people are like any other. It's just disabled sport."