Earlier this year, we saw the best athletes in the world competing in Russia at the Winter Olympics.

This week, the best amateur basketball players on the planet will take center stage as the NCAA College Basketball Tournament, better known as March madness, gets underway. Whether it's the Olympics or the NCAA tourney, you have to admire the talents of these great young athletes.

As for the Winter Olympics in Sochi, the alpine skiing events are a personal favorite to watch. Having the skills agility, balance, coordination and speed to master a downhill course is quite amazing, and the difference between winning a medal is a fraction of a second.

It's difficult enough on two skis, but imagine someone trying to do it on one leg.

The Winter Paralympic Games, where athletes with physical disabilities compete every four years directly following the Winter Olympic Games, provide that stage.

Since the Winter Paralympics began in 1976 in Sweden, they have grown to be part of the largest international sporting event after the Olympic Games. The sports have included alpine skiing, ice sledge hockey, ice sledge racing, Nordic skiing biathlon, Nordic cross country skiing, para snowboarding and wheelchair curling.

"Reaching the Impossible" was the central theme at the closing ceremony in the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games. Russia placed first in the medal count with 80 while the U.S. was eighth with 17 medals, including two gold and seven silver.

Winning two of America's eight bronze medals was Stephanie Jallen, a senior at Wyoming Area High School in Luzerne County.

She placed third in both the super-G and the super combined in women's alpine skiing.

She also competed in the slalom and the two-run giant slalom, but did not finish either event due to falls. She shouldn't feel bad. We would struggle just STANDING on one leg for any period, let alone trying to race down a mountain on one ski!

After finishing high school, Jallen plans to study at King's College. The motivation to overachieve is a personal characteristic she's already mastered.

By JIM ZBICK

editor@tnonline.com