That's a wrap: Beijing 2022 heralds new era for winter Para sportsSleeping giants China now fully awoken The future looks bright thanks to the next generation of stars to have emerged at Beijing 2022 13 Mar 2022
As we reach the end of nine days of sweat, tears, triumph and defeat, one thing is certain: The future has never been brighter for winter Para sports.
Of the 72 medals won in six sports, many witnessed the coming of a new generation of skiers, curlers and skaters.
Sleeping giants China have also now fully woken up and have made their presence known, whilst those who have been looming large over the ice and snow for longer - such as Ukraine - continue to get stronger.
With their biggest ever team by a huge margin, the hosts end atop the medals table with 18 golds, 20 silver and 23 bronze and a slew of historic first medals across sports. Ukraine were second for their best ever performance - 11 gold, 10 silver and eight bronze. Canada round off the top three with eight gold, six silver and 11 bronze.
Youngsters shine in Para Alpine Skiing
Headlines abounded at the Yangqing National Para Alpine Skiing Centre with stories seeping from every race over six days.
It was a competition highlighted by youngsters, showing a bright future for the sport.
Norway’s Jesper Pedersen finished as the most successful athlete overall with four golds and one silver from the men’s sitting. He reached the top of the podium in all but the downhill.
"I exceeded all expectations. Of course this is what I've been dreaming for the last couple of years, but to be able to have such good events here and in Hafjell (2022 World Championships) as well, it's been just amazing for me," said 22-year-old Pedersen.
Austria's Aigner siblings captured the imagination of people around the world in the men’s and women’s vision impaired.
Veronika, 19, and her guide and older sister Elisabeth, along with their twin siblings Johannes and Barbara, 16, collected nine medals in their Paralympic debut with proud parents Christian and Petra cheering from the stands.
Their efforts took Austria to the top of the Para Alpine Skiing medals table with four gold, five silver and two bronze.
Behind them and second-placed Norway were hosts China.
When the Para Alpine competition came to a close on Sunday, coach Dario Capelli’s athletes had won three gold medals, as well as nine silver and seven bronze.
Capelli credited the resilience of his athletes who transformed from novices into champions within one Paralympic cycle.
"They are good athletes, good people," he said. "The Chinese, when they start to do something, they do something. They don't say, 'Oh, I don't have this. Oh, I need this. Oh, this is broken'. No, they continue to go."
Zhang Menqui, 20, took victory in the women’s giant slalom and super-G standing.
Liang Jingyi, 19, claimed China’s first men’s Paralympic alpine skiing gold in the men’s super-G.
The growth of the team has been immense since Liu skied out as China’s sole representative in the sport at PyeongChang 2018.
But the youngsters and debutants did not have all the fun at Beijing 2022. Slovakia’s Henrieta Farkasova, 35, stole a march on her competitors once again, taking her 10th and 11th Paralympic title in the women’s vision impaired alongside guide Martyn Motkya.
Japan’s Momoka Muraoka – a three-time Paralympian at the age of 25 – achieved her best ever performance with three golds in the women’s downhill, giant slalom and super-G sitting.
Other incredible storylines included the best ever finish for completely blind Slovakian skier Marek Kubacka and guide Maria Zatovicova with fourth in the men’s giant slalom vision-impaired.
Argentina, too, celebrated history with Enrique Plantey just missing the podium in the men’s sitting to achieve fourth – his country’s best ever finish at a Winter Olympics or Paralympics.
Santeri Kiiveri claimed Finland’s first alpine skiing medal with silver in the men’s super-combined, following it up just days later with their maiden gold in the giant slalom.
And British brothers Neil and Andrew Simpson bagged Great Britain’s first ever men’s gold in Paralympic or Olympic alpine skiing in the super-G vision impaired.
Ukraine show strength in Para Biathlon
Ukrainian biathletes dominated the tracks at the National Biathlon Centre, topping the medals table with eight gold, nine silver and five bronze – their best ever performance at a Paralympic Winter Games.
Headlining their efforts were Oskana Shyshkova and Vitalii Lukianenko in men’s and women’s vision impaired.
Guided by Andriy Marchenko, Shyshkova put her head down on the opening day to win the sprint and never looked back. The Ukrainian only dropped gold in one event – the middle distance – but still managed to claim silver.
Lukianenko took two titles in a row in the sprint and middle, before his spell only slightly faultered in the individual where he got second place with guide Borys Babar.
On that occasion another Ukrainian was ready to step into the breach and add to his country’s medal haul. Oleksandr Kazik – the only completely blind skier in the field - and guide Serhii Kucheriavyi took over the winning mantle.
The other Ukrainian gold medallists were Grygorii Vovchnyskyi in the men’s standing sprint, Liudmyla Liashenko in the women’s Individual standing and Iryan Bui in the women’s middle distance standing.
Voychynksyi, Liashenko, Lukianenko, and Taras Rad were the other stand-out performers from Ukraine, securing a podium finish in all events including the open relay on the final day.
"Every time we go to the start we understand that we (want to) protect the honour of our country," Shyshkova said. "That is maybe what is motivating us to focus and do all the best that we can during the race. Maybe that is the secret."
The USA’s Oksana Masters, who missed only one shot in three races at Beijing 2022, joined Lukianenko and Shyshkova at the top of the individual medal table.
Alongside Kendell Gretsch, the duo's total of six medals took the USA to third in the table. Their golds also complete a remarkable triple for Masters and Gretsch, who competed in Para cycling and Para triathlon respectively at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games and have won gold medals at three consecutive Games, Winter and summer.
"It's been so scary to be honest," Masters said. "There's so many days where I second-guess myself, like, 'I'm not ready, I'm not ready', and then there are days where I feel good.
"I'm just so happy to be able to represent USA in multiple sports and be able to bring home gold."
China's 20-year-old Liu Mengtao surprised himself with two gold medals and a bronze in his first Games, starring in China’s four title haul.
"We’ve got the whole country watching us, including my family. What if I fail to deliver a good race? So yeah, the pressure is definitely there,” he said.
The host nation's total of 12 medals – second on the Para Biathlon medals table - were their first in the sport at a Paralympic Games.
All about McKeever
Canada’s Brian McKeever headlined the action at the National Biathlon Centre, equalling the record of German Para alpine skier Gerd Schoenfelder with 16 golds.
The Canadian ended his Paralympic career with a clean sweep of three golds in the men’s individual vision impaired events, guide by Graham Nishikawa and Russell Kennedy.
"I've always said I'm not in it for the medals, it's for the experiences," McKeever, who first topped the podium in Salt Lake City in 2002, said.
"We're just happy to be here. After 20 years of doing this, it's an honour to be a part of the Paralympics."
The sprint, middle distance and long distance gold medallist admitted he got emotional after finishing sixth with Brittany Hudak in Sunday's open relay, his last race of the Games.
"It's hard to say goodbye," he said. "But maybe it's not 'goodbye' but 'until next time'. For now, it was just so great to race again, with the team, in a relay.
"It's after you cross that finish line and it's finally done, and then it hits. That was harder than I thought it would be. It's emotional for sure."
A less expected triple gold medallist, China’s Yang Hongqiong, won all three women's individual sitting events. The 32-year-old, who took up the sport only four years ago, had never competed at a Paralympic Games or World Championships before.
"I can’t believe it. This is so surreal," Yang said after winning her first gold medal in the long distance. "With this medal, we’ve proved that team China has unlimited potential for winter sports."
China ended the Para Cross-Country as the leading nation with seven golds, six silvers and five bronze medals. Zheng Peng also inspired his country with two golds in the men’s sprint and long distance sitting.
Two-time PyeongChang 2018 champion Oksana Masters had to settle for three individual silver medals behind Yang, but she did end Beijing 2022 in style as she, Sydney Peterson, Daniel Cnossen and Jake Adicoff won the mixed relay.
That made Masters the most decorated female athlete, with seven medals (three gold, four silver) across Para Biathlon and Para Cross-Country.
The competition looks healthy too in the women’s vision impaired. Germany's talented 15-year-old Linn Kazmeier and guide Florian Baumann took the women’s middle distance title and will be one to watch at Milano Cortina 2026, alongside Austria’s new sprint champion Carina Edlinger, guided by Laurenz Josef Lampl.
In the women's standing, 21-year-old Natalie Wilkie, who won two gold medals, a silver and a bronze, showed Canada will still be a Para Cross-Country force to be reckoned with in the post-McKeever era.
China were followed by Canada on the sport’s medal table on five wins and a total of 10 top-three finishes. Ukraine, who crowned a strong Para Nordic campaign by winning the open relay, were No.3 on three gold medals.
History-makers punctuate Para Snowboard
At the end of Para Snowboard, China topped the medals table with three golds, three silver and four bronze overall with their most dominate performance across sports.
Li Lijia was golden in the men’s snowboard-cross SB-UL, winning China’s first ever title in the sport on his Paralympic debut. On that occasion Li led an all Chinese Big Final that featured Pengyao Wang and Zhu Yonggang as the respective silver and bronze medallists.
Wu Zhongwei and Qi Sun took the golds on offer in the men’s banked slalom SBLL1- and SB-LL2.
Ji, Wu and Zhu all left the Paralympics with a medal from both events, whilst Geng Yanhong became the sport’s first female Paralympic medallist from China in the women’s banked slalom SB-LL2.
“No secret. Just work hard,” Geng said when asked what is behind’s China’s rise.
Finland’s Matti Suur-Hamari narrowly missed out on double gold in the men's LL2 class in Beijing. The 35-year-old won snowboard cross and took silver in banked slalom, beaten in the latter by home favourite Sun. The Finn says the emergence of China as a snowboarding force is a positive thing.
"That's really good for the sport," Suur-Hamari said. "I'm really happy to see them riding so well.
"I know they've been working so much during the past years. They started from zero.
"From the Chinese snowboarders you can see, if you just go and train hard and spend those hours, you can learn quite a bit."
Canada and Great Britain also reached new heights with their first podium finishes.
Canadian Tyler Turner stormed to gold in the men’s snowboard-cross SB-LL1, beating defending champion Mike Schultz of the USA, to take his country’s maiden title. That followed the silver-medal performance of teammate Lisa Dejong in the women’s SB-LL2, who can call herself her country’s first medallist at this level.
Turner went on to bag bronze in the banked slalom.
Ollie Hill secured Great Britain’s first Paralympic snowboard medal with bronze in the men’s banked slalom SB-LL2.
Quality shows in Para Ice Hockey
The final turned out to be a coronation for defending champions the USA, taking their fourth successive gold against Canada.
Worryingly for their opponents, the US continue to keep things fresh in terms of their line-up. Six of the players on their team sheet are aged under 25.
One of those is Declan Farmer who possesses the lethal combination of youth and experience as a now triple Paralympian. Farmer installed himself as his country’s all-time best player in Beijing with seven goals and 11 assists.
And far from taking a step back after the retirement of legendary goaltender Steve Cash, their last line of defence has continued in the form of Jen Lee. Lee ended the tournament without having conceded a single goal.
Canada meanwhile say goodbye to Greg Westlake who is retiring after winning three Paralympic medals and eight World Championships podiums across his 19-year career.
China were the surprise of the tournament, reaching the semi-finals and then winning bronze on their Paralympic debut.
Shen Yifeng ended as the second best forward behind Farmer with eight goals and six assists.
Showing the rapid growth of the sport and what can be achieved with investment, the Chinese are the second debutant consecutive team to make it onto the podium after South Korea at PyeongChang 2018.
China reach Wheelchair Curling peak...again
As the loudest and youngest rink in the tournament, defending champions China won their second Paralympic Wheelchair Curling gold.
In a rematch of the 2021 world championship final, the Beijing 2022 hosts beat Sweden 8-3 at the same venue where the teams faced each other only a few months ago.
“We all played very well today, we were very confident," skip Wang Haito said. "I’m really happy right now. We did our country proud. We didn’t waste all the hard work put in over the last few years.”
China had lost to Sweden, as well as Canada, in a rocky start to the round robin, but recovered to win eight matches in a row, before dispatching Canada in the semi-finals.
In making it into the final, Sweden reached their best ever performance. Their previous podiums – two bronzes – had come on the sport’s debut at Torino 2006 and then again at Vancouver 2010. They emerged from the round-robin having lost only three of their seven games.
“We made a big journey. We achieved a lot of experience over the years. It has been a fantastic ride,” skip Viljo Pettersson-Dahl said.
Canada grabbed the bronze medal, as they did at PyeongChang 2018. The team lost out to China four years ago in the semi-finals, ending their reign as Paralympic champions after winning all three previous titles. They faced heartbreak once again against the Chinese at the same stage.
But their bronze medal win against Slovakia still represents an incredible record of a medal at every single edition.
“It feels fantastic. I don't think it ever gets old winning a medal, same feelings, lots of emotions and pressures going into the game until the last nine seconds of it,” Ina Forrest said. “For Canada, to be on the podium again, we were on the podium at every Paralympics, and it’s a work in progress to maintain this streak."
It was a best-ever finish for their opponents Slovakia, who improved on their sixth place at Sochi 2014 to fourth.
Another big improvement came from USA, who finished last four years ago but moved up to fifth at Beijing 2022 with a 5-5 win record.
Debutants Latvia also registered some encouraging results against more established nations. These included a win over Sweden and Slovakia in the round robin.