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Team Russia all set for record-breaking London Paralympics

The 2012 Paralympics, which kick off in London on Wednesday, are expected to break a number of records, including selling out for the first time and winning the biggest TV audience of 4 billion.
­Team Russia are also aiming for a record of their own, with sporting officials claiming it’s going to be the most successful Games for the country’s disabled athletes.The Russians as well as the other competitors have settled into the Athletes Village, following a unique welcome in the British capital.It could have been just a simple flag raising ceremony, but the British organizers have once again outdone themselves putting on a theatrical show to welcome the participating nations at the London 2012 Paralympic village.“Great Britain has already built a tradition of creating an environment without barriers for the Paralympians,” Dmitry Kozak, Russia’s Deputy Prime minister, said. “We have a similar plan in place for Sochi 2014 and we've implemented about 70 percent of it already.”The Russian flag and the national anthem were last, but definitely not least in line.The procession was led by two-time Paralympic champion, Aleksey Ashapatov, who will also be the country’s flag bearer at the opening ceremony later on Wednesday.“It's a huge responsibility to have the honorable distinction of being flag-bearer for your country,” he told RT. “I feel completely fired up emotionally.”The Russian national team has a number of athletes who will be making their second attempt at claiming a place on the Paralympic podium.Among them is Beijing gold medalist, swimmer Olesia Vladykina, who is also an ambassador for the next winter Paralympics to be held in the Russian coastal city of Sochi in 2014.“There's a huge difference between how I felt coming into Beijing and today,” she stressed. “It's difficult to explain, but I feel both the pressure and the support – which is really making me eager to get into the pool.”Since the disintegration of the Soviet Union, a lot more attention and care has been given to people with disabilities and that's reflected in Russia's Paralympic medal count and the growing number of athletes.163 of them came to London, which is nearly a 20 percent increase from the Beijing games.Hopefully, the additional participants will help Russia improve on their eighth place finish four years ago.The Paralympics will be held in the British capital between August 29 and September 9.