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Sochi Paralympics end in spectacular style

updated 4:06 PM EDT, Sun March 16, 2014
Fireworks explode after the Closing Ceremony of the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games at Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia, on Sunday, March 16. Fireworks explode after the Closing Ceremony of the 2014 Paralympic Winter Games at Fisht Olympic Stadium in Sochi, Russia, on Sunday, March 16.
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2014 Winter Paralympic Games
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Sochi Paralympics ended Sunday
  • Russia finished top of medal table with 30 golds
  • President Putin attended ceremony
  • Ukraine flagbearer made political statement

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(CNN) -- A spectacular closing ceremony brought an end to the 2014 Sochi Paralympic Games Sunday.

In front of Russian President Vladimir Putin, the ceremony embraced the theme of "Reaching the Impossible."

Some 547 athletes from 45 countries competed for the 72 gold medals on offer -- with host nation Russia coming out on top.

Russia claimed 30 gold medals and 80 in total, way ahead of Germany which finished in second place.

On the day where a referendum was held in Crimea, Ukraine flagbearer, biathlete and cross-country skier Lyudmila Pavlenko entered the stadium wearing a top emblazoned with the word "Peace".

But her actions did not overshadow a ceremony which involved 462 performers and 8,000 volunteers.

Symbolic protest at Sochi's Paralympics
Ukraine paralympians compete in Sochi
Paralympian disqualified over disability

International Paralympic Commitee president Philip Craven told spectators at the stadium: "The Paralympic Spirit has united and infected us all. Proud Paralympians -- your inspirational athletic performances have redefined the boundaries of possibility.

"You have shown the world that absolutely anything is possible and that life is about amazing capabilities and not perceived deficiencies.

"With record numbers of highly enthusiastic spectators supporting you all, you have shown what real grit and determination looks like. Through record TV audiences and media coverage, you have opened up the eyes of the world to what the human spirit can achieve."

Russia's hero of the Games was Roman Petushkov who won six gold medals -- the most by any individual at a single Paralympics.

The 36-year-old, who lost both his legs in a car accident eight years ago, made his Paralympic debut in Vancouver where he won two medals.

After winning five world titles in the Sweden last year, he responded to the pressure magnificently with six golds.

Competing in the seated division of cross country and biathlon, he won the 7.5kilometer, 12km and 15km biathlon as well as the cross country 1km, 15km and the 4x2.5km relay.

One of the other outstanding stories of the Games was the achievement of Brian McKeever, who won his 10th Paralympic title.

The 34-year-old visually impaired cross-country skier, competing in his fourth Paralympics, won three gold medals in Sochi and could yet defend his titles at Korea 2018.

Germany's Anna Schaffelhuber was a five-time gold medal winner at Sochi following a series of sublime sit-ski displays.

Schaffelhuber won the women's giant slalom Sunday to go on top of the downhill, super G, slalom and super combined in the women's sitting class in Sochi.

Speaking at the closing ceremony, Russia's deputy prime minister, Dmitry Kozak, told spectators that the Games "had gone far beyond sports competitions."

He said: They showed what people from different countries and nationalities different cultures and traditions are capable of when they are united by a single goal and an inspired dream.

"Attitudes toward people with an impairment have changed among Russian society. The Paralympic Winter Games have become a catalyst for our efforts to create a barrier-free environment in Russia.

"The Games are over, but we promise that this important work will continue throughout our vast country."

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