This year was full of memorable moments. While the COVID-19 pandemic continued to affect people’s lives, we saw Para athletes taking the spotlight. They were back and competing in tournaments around the world.
But there was also much going on outside of competitions. Excitement for the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games was high, and Para athletes spoke up about important global issues and our shared values of diversity and inclusion.
Here’s a look at the top moments of 2022:
The Beijing 2022 Paralympic Games were the highlight of this year’s calendar. The Winter Games, which took place between 4-13 March, featured 78 events across six Para sports. China was atop the medals table with 18 gold medals.
Austria’s Aigner family took centre stage as the Para Alpine skiing siblings bagged nine medals. Canadian legend Brian McKeever put on an exceptional show at his final Games, finishing as a 16-time gold medallist.
Para swimmers shine in Madeira
Para swimmers from around the world gathered in Portugal for the World Para Swimming Championships in June. Para athletes broke records, won medals and achieved their personal bests during the seven-day event.
Italy claimed 27 gold medals to top the medals table for the second World Championship in a row. Simone Barlaam and Stefano Raimondi earned 11 golds for the country. Meanwhile, Afghan-born Abbas Karimi, a former Refugee Paralympic Team athlete, swam for the United States for the first time at an international event after getting his U.S. citizenship earlier this year.
Kunieda seals career golden slam
Japan’s Shingo Kunieda proved he is unstoppable in 2022. The wheelchair tennis star became the first men’s wheelchair tennis player to complete a career Grand Slam, as well as a career Golden Slam, following his victory at Wimbledon in July.
In the women’s competition, Diede de Groot went unbeaten in singles throughout the entire season for the first time in her career. The Dutchwoman earned 10 titles, including victories at all four Grand Slams and the year-ending NEC Wheelchair Singles Masters.
Hug continues to dominate
Swiss wheelchair racer Marcel Hug continued his dominant form in 2022. A year after achieving a golden sweep in his four events at Tokyo 2020, he won the marathons in Tokyo, Berlin, London, Chicago and New York.
In April, Hug won his career’s second Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with Disability award. He previously won the award in 2018 and joins Brazil’s Para swimmer Daniel Dias and Dutch wheelchair tennis player Esther Vergeer as one of the only Para athletes to receive this prestigious award multiple times.
PARA SPORT launched
The International Paralympic Committee (IPC) created a new grassroots-to-high performance programme called PARA SPORT. It aims to support National Paralympic Committees and International Federations, bringing together events and organisations to help change the narrative around persons with disabilities.
Interested in taking up Para sports? On the dedicated website for PARA SPORT, Paralympic medallists have shared their five tips for getting started in their sport. We have tips from Indian gold medallist Pramod Bhagat on how to get started in Para badminton, Brazil’s Alana Maldonado on how to take up judo, and much more. And we look forward to sharing more next year!
Setting the stage for Paris 2024
With two years to go until Paris 2024, we saw new plans revealed and excitement building around the world. For the first time at Paris 2024, the Opening Ceremony of a Paralympic Games will be held outside a stadium.
In October this year, as many as 40,000 people gathered at the Place de la Bastille as the French capital hosted its first-ever Paralympic Day. The official Games mascots - the Paralympic and Olympic Phryge - were also introduced in November. They are so cute!
Para athletes speaking up on global issues
Para athletes spoke out about our shared values of inclusion and diversity. As we celebrated Pride Month in June, Dutch wheelchair basketball star Bo Kramer shared the joy of finding self-acceptance and Israeli Para rower Moran Samuel wrote about her experience as an LGBTQ+ athlete.
Former refugee and Para swimmer Karimi sent a powerful message on World Refugee Day. “Every refugee should have a home and all the doors should be open for them, to welcome them,” he said.
While we looked forward to the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games, we also took some time to look back and celebrate the anniversaries of recent Games. In addition to the first anniversary of the postponed Tokyo 2020 Games, this summer marked the 10th anniversary of London 2012 and the 30th anniversary of Barcelona 1992.
We spoke with athletes who competed at Tokyo 2020. Para taekwondo’s Lisa Gjessing and Para badminton’s Cheah Liek Hou shared what winning gold meant for them and their sports, which made their Paralympic debuts in the Japanese capital. Two-time Paralympian Manami Ito, who played the violin at the Opening Ceremony, also showed us how to play the instrument with a prosthetic arm.
WeThe15 campaign enjoys impressive year
WeThe15, which aims to become the biggest-ever human rights movement to represent the world’s 1.2 billion persons with disabilities, had another impressive year. The campaign received several awards, including being named the International Campaign of the Year at the 2022 Sport Industry Awards.
Launched in August 2021 ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games, WeThe15 is a decade-long movement that aims to end discrimination against persons with disabilities and campaign globally for disability visibility, accessibility, inclusion, and equality of rights.
The first-ever “Parastronaut”
Former British Paralympic sprinter John McFall was among 17 astronaut candidates that the European Space Agency recruited as part of its class of 2022. The call-up makes him the first person with a physical disability to be recruited by a world space agency.
He will take part in the Parastronaut Feasibility Project, which looks at ways to include astronauts with physical disabilities in human spaceflight.
“I was incredibly excited and proud of myself that I got through the selection process,” said McFall, a bronze medallist at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games. “It’d been quite a whirlwind experience. As an amputee, I’d never thought that being an astronaut was a possibility, so excitement was a huge emotion and I look forward to what the future holds.”