The Wheelchair Curling semi-finalists of the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games were decided on Thursday (10 March), with some notable teams making it into the top four.
Defending champions China, three-time gold medallists Canada, Slovakia and Sweden will all play for a shot on gold. While the hosts and Canada were expected to advance, Slovakia reached the knock-out stages for the first time whilst Sweden are targeting their best finish since 2010.
In Para Alpine Skiing, Finland grabbed their maiden Paralympic gold.
Day of history in Para Alpine Skiing
A trio of historic results headlined the action in Para Alpine Skiing on Thursday as the men tried their hands at giant slalom.
Santeri Kiiveri added to Finland’s first ever Paralympic medal – silver in the super-combined - by topping the podium in the men’s standing.
"The giant slalom has all the time been really good for me but I haven't been able to do good runs in the races and now everything came together," the 21-year-old said.
"It's been a great job for me. After the first medal I decided that now I would just enjoy and go full gas and that paid off."
Kiiveri is now a holder of a gold and silver medal from Beijing 2022 .
The USA's Thomas Walsh was just 0.04 seconds behind Kiiveri for second. France's Arthur Bauchet completed the podium for his third medal of Beijing 2022.
Norwegian Jesper Pedersen took gold in the giant slalom sitting, bringing his own medal haul to three.
He said: "I just have to try to look at every opportunity as a new opportunity and try to fight for gold. Of course, I've had a lot of golds by now but I always want to have more.
"I am kind of the most consistent skier on the circuit.
"We've just trained a lot. We probably have the most days on skis on the circuit. And in these conditions as well, we have a glacier on Norway we are on the whole summer.
"We've been through it all, we did a lot of training going into this season and we knew what to expect. Today we showed we've done a lot of good things."
Jesper Pedersen will go for his fourth gold in slalom on Sunday. ⒸOIS Photos
Italian Rene de Silvestro took silver and China’s Liang Zilu collected bronze.
Sitting second after run one, Austria's Johannes Aigner, guided by Matteo Fleischmann, posted a scintillating second run to wrestle the gold from Italy’s defending champion Giacomo Bertagnolli in the men’s vision impaired.
"It's just unbelievable. Because we already have gold, silver and bronze, it’s just gold that we wanted [in the giant slalom]. It’s unbelievable for us that we made it," Aigner said.
Johannes Aigner and guide Matthias Fleishmann are proving to be a dream paring. ⒸOIS Photos
Bertagnolli and guide Andrea Ravelli settled for silver. Slovakia's Miroslav Haraus, guided by Maros Hudik, completed the top three.
Haraus’s teammate Marek Kubacka – the only completely blind skier in the field – reached his best ever finish of fourth with guide Maria Zatovicova.
Wheelchair curlers make their own history
Defending champions China, Sweden, Canada and Slovakia all secured places in the semi-finals of Wheelchair Curling on Thursday as the sun set on round-robin play.
The hosts qualified for the playoffs - with a game in hand - by beating Great Britain 6-3 at the National Aquatics Centre in the morning to claim their seventh victory of the round robin stage.
After a shaky start, which saw them lose their opening two games, China found their form in the following days.
China’s Zhuo Yan said: "At first, we were not used to playing on a big stage like this, where we face strong opponents. With each game, we gained experience and gradually improved."
Traditional wheelchair curling powerhouses Sweden and Canada also confirmed spots in the semi-finals after Thursday morning wins.
Canada finished the round robin stage with seven wins and three losses, while Sweden's 10-7 comeback win against the USA on Thursday morning gave them seven wins from nine matches and sealed their place with one game to spare.
"We have to try to work with our mentality and focus on the next end, and the next end, and we managed to do that,” Sweden’s Viljo Petersson-Dahl said. “We came out strong in the seventh and made a good end and that was the key for our win today."
Sweden are going for their first medal since Vancouver 2010 when they secured bronze. ⒸOIS Photos
Canada, three-time champions and unbeaten at a Paralympics until PyeongChang 2018 when China stole their thunder, are aiming to reclaim their title.
Slovakia meanwhile reached the knock-out stages for the first time, despite a nervous wait.
Radoslav Duris’s rink beat Switzerland 8-6 in the morning and then had to cross their fingers for Latvia to lose their tie against Great Britain. The Latvians did fall to the Brits 8-4, confirming a semi-final place for Slovakia.
The semi-finals will feature an exciting match-up between China and Canada - a repeat of 2018 when the Chinese executed a shock victory on their way to gold - while Sweden will face Slovakia.
The teams who miss out on a chance on gold will play for bronze later in the day.