PyeongChang 2018: Highest highs and heartbreak for hosts
Day 7 of Winter Games throws up dramatic results both outdoors and indoors16 Mar 2018
Day 7 (16 March) of the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games a Canadian banish the demons of his near miss in Sochi, heartbreak for hosts South Korea in wheelchair curling and China guarantee themselves the first Winter Paralympics medal in their history.
It was also a day of new golden glory in snowboard for Bibian Mentel-Spee and Team USA, who stormed the slopes at Jeongseon.
Canada’s Mark Arendz has spent the last four years driven by the 0.7 seconds that separated him from the Paralympic Winter Games gold medal in the men’s biathlon 7.5km standing at Sochi 2014.
When the men’s biathlon 15km standing competition started on Friday at the Alpensia Biathlon Centre, Arendz knew exactly what he had to do to make the next four years completely different.
"That 0.7 has been driving my training for four years. It's a small thing that made a big impact over the last four years and finally to put it together here, to get that gold and by a fair margin too, that means everything. Everything has come together finally,” said the 28-year-old who beat France’s Benjamin Daviet by 58.3 seconds.
"I was very focused [after the Sochi Games]. I knew that there was such a small margin and every day, every training I thought, 'That's what I have to make up'. Not necessarily just 0.7 of a second but it was the driving force that made me train on those days that were kind of tough to get out of bed. It was like, 'OK, I have to go', thinking of making up that 0.7. And today I finally did it."
The last day of the biathlon competition also saw double gold for Germany and the Neutral Paralympic Athlete delegation. The Germans dominated the sitting events with Andrea Eskau taking the third Paralympic gold of her career (in the women’s 12.5km) while Martin Fleig claimed the men’s 15km – his first Paralympic medal.
Anna Milenina led a Neutral Paralympic Athlete one-two with Ekaterina Rumyantseva in the women’s 12.5km standing. The other NPA gold came with Mikhalina Lysova (guide Alexey Ivanov) in the women’s 12.5km vision impaired.
Jeongseon saw the last day of snowboard with the banked slalom competition and Bibian Mentel-Spee delivering an amazing performance in the third last run to beat USA’s Brittani Couri to win her second gold in PyeongChang.
The 45-year-old Dutch is one of the pioneers in the sport and played in important role to the inclusion of snowboard in the Paralympic Winter Games programme. In July 2017 she was diagnosed with cancer and the treatment only ended two months ago.
If her life was a movie, PyeongChang 2018 would be the perfect happy ending as Mentel-Spee suggested that she does not plan to compete in the Games again.
“I’m going to take it easy for a little while. These are probably my last Games. I might do a couple more competitions but probably not any more Games,” said Mentel-Spee.”[I hope to stay involved] just to bring it further and hopefully inspire a lot of kids out there with a physical disability to come out and play this wonderful sport."
USA’s Brenna Huckaby made it two golds in two in the women’s SB-LL1. On the men’s side, there were different champions from the snowboard-cross. USA won the SB-UL with Mike Minor and the SB-LL1 through Noah Elliott. Japan won its – and Asia’s - first snowboard gold with a flawless performance from Narita Gurimu in the SB-LL2.
At the Gangneung Curling Centre China beat Canada to reach the final of the wheelchair curling competition. With at least silver guaranteed, it will be China’s first medal at the Paralympic Winter Games. A promising four years for the host nation of the next Games in Beijing 2022.
“As a Chinese person I am so happy,” Wang Haitao said. "I am so excited to reach the final. This is the first medal for China in the Paralympics [Winter Games] so this is history for me. Before the semi-final we lost to Canada [in the round robin] so I was so nervous."
South Korea’s dream to reach the final was ended in heartbreaking fashion by Norway who prevailed in an extra ends victory after regulation time had ended 6-6.
"It was disappointing because the opponents made some mistakes and there were opportunities to win. I could see the team were getting nervous towards the end and the concentration started to decline but that was an important part of the game," said coach Beak Jong Chul. “I hope the team forget today's game and tries their best to win a medal."
There was another good result for Norway in Gangneung a few hours later when the Para ice hockey team beat Czech Republic 5-2 to finish fifth. Sweden finished seventh after beating Japan 5-1.