Day 1: Paralympic Winter Games previewAfter a spectacular Opening Ceremony, competition will get underway in four sports at Beijing 2022 Para Alpine Skiing, Para Biathlon, Para Ice Hockey and Wheelchair Curling all set to feature on day one 05 Mar 2022
The first morning at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games will already see some of the 564 athletes from 46 countries heading out onto the ice and snow to fight for the coveted gold.
Medals will be up for grabs in Para Alpine Skiing and Para Biathlon, while group play will begin in Para Ice Hockey and Wheelchair Curling.
Para Alpine Skiing
The downhill is one of the most thrilling events in snow sports and will provide the perfect beginning to competition at the Yanqing National Alpine Skiing Centre.
Medals will be awarded in the men’s and women’s sitting, standing and vision impaired categories on an action-packed Saturday.
France’s Marie Bochet gets her campaign underway to retain the four titles she won at PyeongChang 2018 in the women’s standing. The most decorated French skier of all time – and a holder of 30 major international medals including the downhill world title - Beijing 2022 may be her last Paralympic dance.
Austria’s Markus Salcher is on a high after regaining his Worlds downhill gold in Lillehammer, Norway, in the men’s standing, becoming a triple world champion in the event. Salcher may well be looking over his shoulder at the likes of France’s Arthur Bauchet, in the hunt for his first Paralympic title after taking home four silvers last time around.
Germany’s defending Paralympic slalom and super-combined champion Anna-Lena Forster has been unstoppable in the women’s sitting this season, including claiming the downhill World Championships crown.
In the men’s sitting, Norway’s Jesper Pedersen has floated to Beijing 2022 on the cloud of winning three golds and two silvers at his home World Championships. His haul included the downhill title but the Netherlands’ Jeroen Kampschreur is hungry to expand his medal collection after winning super-combined gold four years ago.
Slovakia’s nine-time Paralympic and world champion Henrieta Farkasova raced to her latest downhill gold at the Worlds with guide Eva Trajcikova in the women’s vision impaired in Lillehammer. Farkasova is the holder of all Paralympic titles except the slalom and is one of the most decorated skiers of all time from her classification.
By contrast, France’s Hyancinthe Deleplace is a relative newcomer in the men’s vision impaired, but one that has made quite the impact.
Deleplace left Lillehammer 2021 as the most decorated male skier in the men’s vision impaired category, securing golds in the super-G, super-combined and downhill with guide Maxime Jourdan on his World Championships debut.
Deleplace, who originally competed in athletics as a sprinter at London 2012, was inspired by Para Alpine Skiing after watching Sochi 2014.
Speed will be the order of the day in Para Biathlon as well as skiers take on the 6km sprint course at the Zhangjiakou National Biathlon Centre.
The USA’s Kendell Gretsch went straight from winning the sprint gold at PyeongChang 2018 to training for Para Triathlon at Tokyo 2020 where she also claimed the title.
Just four months later, Gretsch was competing at the World Championships and winning again.
But Germany’s Anja Wicker had her number in the sprint and was the only women to deprive Gretsch of a full-house of golds in Lillehammer.
All three spots on the Worlds podium in the women’s sprint standing were occupied by Ukrainians, led by Oleksandra Kononova. Liudmyla Liashenko and Iuliia Batenkova-Baumann stood alongside Kononova in silver and bronze medal position, respectively.
Another Ukrainian, Oksana Shyshkova, returns as the Paralympic silver medallist from 2018 with guide Andriy Marchenko in the women's vision impaired.
Para Ice Hockey
The headline fixture of the opening day on the ice will be a clash between old ice hockey rivals Canada and the USA in Group A.
The USA have a big record to maintain as the defending title holders and winners at every Paralympics since 2010.
At PyeongChang 2018 Declan Farmer was the hero of the hour in the final against Canada, equalising with 37 seconds left on the clock and scoring the winner in overtime. He returns for Beijing 2022.
Also getting their campaign underway on the opening day are China in Group B. The hosts are hoping to capitalise on their meteoric rise to the top flight which they achieved in 2021, having worked their way up from the C-pool in just three years. Look out for flying forward Yi Feng Shen who is known for his lightening attack.
Slovakia are China’s first opponents and make their Paralympic debut.
Four years ago Italy agonisingly missed out on their best ever finish, pushed into fourth by South Korea by just one goal. Their campaign to take a Paralympic medal will begin against Czech Republic, also in Group B.
Triple Paralympian Michael Geier will be using all of his experience to guide his team through the group stages and – they hope – beyond, having finished sixth in 2018.
A sensational clash between defending champions China and former title-holders Canada gets the Wheelchair Curling round-robin underway on Saturday.
At PyeongChang 2018 China caused a huge upset, knocking out Canada in the semi-finals. Until that point Canada had been the only country to win Paralympic gold since the sport’s debut at Torino 2006. Instead they had to settle for bronze.
Both sides will be watching each other’s form very closely to see what weaknesses they can expose.
Norway also grabbed their first Paralympic medal in 2018, finishing in silver behind China. They open their tournament against Great Britain.