Paralympic Winter Games
04 - 13 March

Mihaita Papara chases Para Snowboard success inspired by winter Para sports pioneer

Romanian three-time Winter Paralympian Laura Valeanu encourages compatriot Papara to take up Para sports 06 Mar 2022
Laura Valeanu and Mihaita Papara carry the Romanian flag at the Opening Ceremony of Beijing 2022
Laura Valeanu and Mihaita Papara carry the Romanian flag at the Opening Ceremony of Beijing 2022
ⒸGetty Images
By OIS and Kirti Patil

Romania’s Mihaita Papara would never have thought of becoming a winter Paralympic athlete after he had his left leg amputated following a car accident in 2005.

“I was 25 when I had a car accident that left me amputated and I have to admit that I was not educated about disability. I had a huge shock. It was very difficult for me to accept my new situation, psychologically, socially. It’s a subject that was not discussed publicly in my home country,” Papara said.

But the zest for skiing of Para Alpine skier Laura Valeanu, who too had a similar impairment, inspired him to take up Para sports
Papara, who first tried Para Snowboard in 2007, is now Romania's top Para Snowboarder and is in Beijing to participate in his second Paralympic Winter Games.

Fitting tribute to combination

It could not have been more fitting that Papara and Valeanu were given the honour to carry Romania’s flag during Friday’s Opening Ceremony of Beijing 2022 at the National Stadium in the Chinese capital.

Reflecting on being part of the athletes' parade and carrying the Romanian flag with Valeanu, Papara said: “If not for her example, I would maybe not even have thought about Para Snowboard.

"She started skiing right after her amputation and she made her first prosthetic at the same technicians as I have, and they told me, 'look, there is a very young girl and she is skiing'.
"And I was like, 'Is this possible?' He was told that it was possible. 'Ya, ya she is skiing and we made her prosthetic and she's skiing with it'," he was told.

Papara, who enjoyed skiing before his accident, was instantly inspired by Valeanu’s resolve and got sucked into the thrill that snowboard provides.

“I thought about it. and we're here," says Papara, who competes in the men's SB-LL1 category.

Role models are important

Papara is of the firm opinion that to excel in sports, role models are key.

"I think it's important to have examples, it's important to set examples, it's important to look upwards, to realise that anything can change in a heartbeat and there are people that have it worse than you and they can still strive and still make the best out of it".

Papara, who has taken Valeanu as his role model, says inspiring others to take up sports is very important. Valeanu will be participating in her third Winter Paralympics in Beijing.
"Being an example to others, it's very important: to bring others into sports and to bring others to realise that sport is really, really helpful," added Papara.