Four years ago, Bibian Mentel-Spee, Amy Purdy and Cecile Hernandez graced the cover of The Paralympian magazine. All three stood the podium at the Sochi 2014 Paralympic Winter Games, hugging each other in celebration not just for their medals. Their collective embrace and smiles told something bigger.
For them and 42 other athletes, Sochi 2014 was a major step forward in Para snowboard, just one of the lasting legacies from those Winter Games.
Snowboard made its Paralympic debut then as a discipline under alpine skiing.
Two medal events were held in men and women’s snowboard-cross. The men’s side saw 33 athletes compete, with the USA sweeping the podium: Evan Strong, Mike Shea and Keith Gabel, respectively.
Dutch snowboarder Mentel-Spee won the women’s side, followed by France’s Hernandez and the USA’s Amy Purdy.
All six are back in PyeongChang. Now, the sport has gone from two to 10 medal events, and is no longer under alpine skiing but instead its own separate sport.
Forty-five countries with 547 athletes took part in Sochi 2014, the previous highest number before PyeongChang 2018, which will see a record 567 athletes from 48 countries, plus the Neutral Paralympic Athlete delegation, compete.
Top athlete performances
At just 21 years old, German alpine skier Anna Schaffelhuber made her mark four years ago. She won gold in all five of her events in the women’s sitting class to match Canada’s Lauren Woolstencroft’s record of five golds for a female athlete at the Winter Games. Schaffelhuber returns to PyeongChang, but her campaign for another five titles is expected to be challenged by Austria’s Claudia Loesch.
By taking the title in three cross-country skiing events – the men’s 1km sprint, 10km and 20km vision impaired races – Canada’s Brian McKeever increased his career Paralympic golds. Tonight, McKeever will be Canada’s flag bearer.
The USA became the first Para ice hockey team to win back-to-back Paralympic golds, while Canada won their third straight Paralympic gold in wheelchair curling. This time, storylines for gold in both sports are different. Canada will try to spoil the USA’s three-peat in ice hockey, whereas Norway will try to slide into their first Paralympic medal in wheelchair curling.
Attendance and coverage
Sochi 2014 was record-breaking in terms of ticket sales and media coverage for a Paralympic Winter Games, with 316,200 tickets sold, which was 86,200 more than Vancouver 2010.
The Games were broadcast to a cumulative global TV audience of nearly 2.1 billion people in more than 55 countries and territories, with broadcasters showing more hours of coverage than previous editions of the Games.
So far for PyeongChang, a record 47 rights-holding broadcasters have agreed to show the Games, covering at least 100 territories. With many broadcasters dedicating more airtime to the Games than ever before across all platforms, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) is confident the cumulative international audience outside of the host market will exceed the record 1.4 billion that watched the Sochi 2014 Paralympics outside of Russia. In total, a cumulative audience of 2.1 billion tuned into the Paralympic Winter Games four years ago with the host market contributing a cumulative 625 million viewers.
The Samsung Paralympic Bloggers project was carried out for the second time in Sochi by the IPC and Samsung, with 30 of the world’s leading winter athletes providing over 100 behind-the-scenes video blogs.
The IPC’s online channels experienced tremendous growth during Sochi 2014, as www.Paralympic.org, showed more than 300 hours of live coverage and tripled its average monthly traffic. On its YouTube channel, the IPC recorded nearly 2.5 million views, and its Facebook and Twitter pages both increased their following by about 13 per cent.
Every competition as well as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of PyeongChang 2018 can be watched live right here on the International Paralympic Committee’s website. Highlights of each day’s action will also be made available.