The Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games promise to pack plenty of excitement, from the dazzling Ceremonies to brand new events and surprise medallists. While a lot remains shrouded in mystery, there are some moments we are already sure will be the highlight of the competitions when the Games begin in less than a year.
Here are our top storylines to watch for across the six winter sports:
1. All about the Js
The Netherlands’ Jeroen Kampschreur and Norway’s Jesper Pedersen are as close as it gets in Para alpine skiing. Less than a second apart in multiple races over the last three seasons, these sit skiers are both 21 years old, with one Paralympic gold medal each and heading to the next Games in the prime of their careers.
What makes this rivalry particularly impressive is that Kampschreur and Pedersen are not only competitive in select disciplines, but across all events.
The skiers have been neck-and-neck since PyeongChang 2018, with Pedersen winning the overall Crystal Globes three seasons in a row while Kampschreur got a clean sweep of gold at the 2019 World Championships as well as several Crystal Globes in individual disciplines.
With such close results, could Beijing 2022 be the competition that finally decides who is the best skier?
2. China’s curling challenge
The Chinese wheelchair curling team would be under plenty of pressure trying to defend the country’s first ever gold medal at the Paralympic Winter Games. Doing this on home ice? That is where things get really exciting.
The Chinese curlers caused a sensation when they beat Norway 6-5 in the final in PyeongChang three years ago. Over the next years, they proved that they were not a one-hit wonder, also winning China’s first world title at the 2019 World Wheelchair Curling Championship.
The pressure on the team has never been higher than heading into Beijing 2022.
The venue where the wheelchair curling competition will be held is already legendary, having previously hosted the history-making swimming races of the Beijing 2008 Olympic and Paralympic Games. A back-to-back victory by the home wheelchair curling team in the same venue would make it even more iconic.
Afterward, she picked up three Crystal Globes, six World Championships medals and a fresh, confident perspective on the upcoming Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.
4. Four-way, dual cool
When it comes to the cool factor, nothing beats Para snowboard races at the Paralympic Winter Games. From the purple hair sported by 2018 Paralympic champion Brenna Huckaby and the pilot license that four-time world champion Chris Vos earned over the past summer, the sport’s coolness factor has only increased since its debut at Sochi 2014.
Now it is about to go up several more notches with the races to get two exciting makeovers. The snowboard-cross will now be held as a four-way race, while banked slalom will change to the dual format.
Both formats have been tested at major competitions since the 2018-19 season, to great success and images worthy of a holiday postcard. With the athletes progressing at a huge pace each season, it has never been more exciting to watch who will cross the finish line first.
5. Old rivals, new battlefield
Some classics never get old. The long-time rivalry of the USA and Canada Para ice hockey teams is one of them. Between the teams’ intense battles in the final games of the last four World Championships and Team USA’s nerve-wracking 2-1 overtime victory at PyeongChang 2018, it is hard to pick a favourite clash between these two hockey superpowers.
Could the Beijing 2022 tournament make that choice easier? One thing is certain - when the USA and Canada players face each other on the ice, it will be a real spectacle.
Brian McKeever has every possible award one could have in Para cross-country skiing.
Canada’s most-decorated winter Paralympian of all time has won an astounding 17 Paralympic medals, 13 of them gold, over five editions of the Games. And he is looking to add a few more at Beijing 2022.
Now in his 40s, McKeever is still in outstanding form. He won two gold and four silver medals in the men’s vision impaired races during the 2019-20 World Cup season and finished 11 points behind the cross-country Crystal Globe winner, Zebastian Modin of Sweden, who is 15 years his junior.
Already a legend, McKeever could see his achievements go further beyond the reach for the next generations.