Thursday, 4 March marked one year to go to the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, at which China will make its debut in Para ice hockey.
China’s roster is expected to be led by Qingdao native Yutao Cui, who was chosen as the team captain because of his ability to always remain calm and treat others as he wishes to be treated.
“I am a prudent person, but as soon as I get on to the rink, I will fully devote myself in fighting for the team’s glory,” he said. “I think that’s why I was selected as the captain by the coach.”
Cui, whose left leg was amputated below the knee after he was in a car accident at age 18, was previously an elite Para cyclist who competed at the provincial level in China before a Para ice hockey coach recognised his skills and brought him to the ice in 2016.
“I started to get involved in this sport shortly after China successfully won the hosting rights of 2022 Winter Paralympics,” he said. “What attracted me to Para ice hockey was its power of unity, its tacit cooperation, its clear mind and its passion which is the most important thing.”
China made its international debut at the Vierumaki 2018 World Championships C-Pool in Finland, beating the hosts and Australia to win the title. In 2019, the Chinese national team finished third in the B-Pool Worlds in Berlin, Germany.
If Cui can stay injury free — he has previously fractured his right ankle, left hand and collarbone — then he is capable of propelling China to the Para ice hockey podium for its first Paralympic medal in the sport just like South Korea did on its home ice three years ago in PyeongChang.
The Para ice hockey tournament next year will be played at Beijing’s National Indoor Stadium, which holds a capacity crowd of 18,672 and is designed to resemble a traditional Chinese folding fan.
The venue hosted the artistic gymnastics, trampolining and handball events at the Beijing 2008 Olympics and the ice hockey Women’s World Championships in 2015.
China’s Para ice hockey team has been able to train daily during the pandemic for the most part, with Cui and his teammates eager to educate the Chinese public about Para ice hockey.
Cui gets his inspiration from Hong-Kong based actor and singer Andy Lau, whose professionalism, silent dedication and eagerness to give back to society he tries to model on an everyday basis.
An avid watcher of the news, Cui hopes to soon be making headlines on the television himself for the legacy he and his teammates hope to leave in Beijing and across their country next winter.
“First, from the promotional perspective, I hope winter sports will be understood by more people and more disabled people will get involved in sports. Second, the infrastructures and facilities will be improved and various stadiums will make our training and competitions convenient. Last but not the least, our whole national system will guarantee the sustainable development of Para sports in China.”