Paralympic Winter Games
04 - 13 March

Peng Zheng, Hongqiong Yang leave strong field shell-shocked

“It’s a race of mental strength and a race of experience. I just told myself, ‘Steady! Hang in there! Don’t give up!’” 06 Mar 2022
Peng Zheng
REMEMBER THE NAME: Peng Zheng of China competes in the men's Long Distance Sitting Para Cross-Country Skiing at the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics at Zhangjiakou National Biathlon Centre. 
ⒸFred Lee/Getty Images
By ND Prashant | For the IPC

Predictions from the pundits of snow sports are going for a toss at the ongoing Beijing 2022 Paralympics Winter Games. The Chinese are ruling the roost in their backyards. They pulled the field to shreds at the Zhangjiakou National Biathlon Centre in the Cross-Country events that got underway on Sunday, 6 March.

The hosts grabbed golds in the two medal events slotted for the day. Making the most of calm and sunny weather, Peng Zheng handed the host their maiden gold in the men's long distance sitting Para Cross-Country Skiing and sent the purists and vocal Chinese fans present at the venue into wild celebrations.

Zheng finished the line with a time of 43:09.2sec while compatriot Zhonhwu Mao settled for silver after finishing 14 seconds adrift. The third place was bagged by Collin Cameron of Canada, who finished with a time of 47:36.6.


Then again an hour later, little known Hongqiong Yang proved to be a surprise winner as she pipped Oksana Masters of the United States by 32.1 secs to claim gold in the women’s Long Distance Sitting. 

Yang’s compatriot Panpan Li too was in the zone and she put up a fine effort to finish third with a time of 45:17.0 to leave reigning champion Kendall Gretsch of US out of the podium place.

Hongqiong Yang
TOP OF THE WORLD: Hongqiong Yang of China competes the Women's Long Distance Sitting Paralympic Para Cross-Country Skiing at the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics.

 “I am super excited. It is a dream come true. Back in PyeongChang, I wasn’t strong mentally or physically. I was close to getting a medal, like 10-15 seconds or so but now, with four more years of training, I am in better physical condition.

“I know better about what I can do, how to make the most out of it. Whether I win or lose, I can keep it together,” said a jubilant Zheng, who went on to add that there were times in the last four years when he was getting frustrated as he felt he wasn’t making any progress.

“There was a period of time when training was getting me nowhere. I didn’t see any improvements in myself. That made me so anxious. But, I am grateful that we had a good team. We compete and overcome the slumps together,” said Zheng, who revealing the secret of success said that the key was the “mentality.”

“Don’t rush in the first laps. It’s a race of mental strength and a race of experience. I just told myself, ‘Steady! Hang in there! Don’t give up!’”

Mao too was delighted with his silver medal winning performance and agreed that home advantage also played a huge part.

"I am so happy. Super grateful and proud of myself to win this medal for China. There are many contributing factors to this medal - competing in my homeland, me in good condition, and all the support I got along the way. Zheng and I trained together and after today’s race, and all the memories we shared, they’re unforgettable,” said the 35-year-old.  

Yang could not believe what she had accomplished and felt it would take a while to sink in.

“I can’t believe it. This is so surreal. With this medal, we’ve proved that team China has unlimited potential for winter sports. The tears and sweat, all the efforts I put into training, that’s what put the gold medal into my hands,” said the 32-year-old, who hails form Yunnan, a Chinese region known for its warm weather.

“We didn’t have conditions for training in Yunnan. It’s only when we came to the national team that training on actual snow became accessible.”

IN FINE FORM: Oksana Masters of United States competes in the Para Cross-Country Skiing Women's Long Distance Sitting at the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics. 


Masters was all praise for the Chinese counterparts and felt the success of the hosts was a huge boost to the sport.

“All three Chinese girls (including bronze medallist Li Panpan and fifth-placed Ma Jing) are very strong in their core and in their classification, so I knew that was going to be very challenging. I also knew that they did not race yesterday (in Para Biathlon) and I did, so that also made it a really challenging race.

"It's great. This will elevate the sport in China for the future and it is exciting,” Masters while revealing that she never knew who Yang was until today.

“No, that's the thing about China, that they're very surprising every time. You never see them until the Games. But they're very strong and they perform and know how to perform in the right races. They are great competitors.”