The Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games were full of moments that continue to bring back dazzling memories one year since the Games came to an end. More than 550 Para athletes competed across six sports during the 10-day event, delivering exceptional performances and historic firsts.
Four years after leaving the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Games with one medal, China emerged as the new powerhouse in winter Para sports. The host nation finished atop the medals table with 61 medals – 18 gold, 20 silver and 23 bronze.
Represented by more than 90 athletes at Beijing 2022, China put on a memorable show on snow and ice. Para cross-country skier Yang Hongqiong shot to stardom in her Paralympic debut, becoming the only Chinese Paralympian to win three gold medals at a Winter Games.
Defending champions China also topped the podium again in wheelchair curling, and in Para biathlon, the country finished second in the sport’s medal table behind Ukraine, with four gold, two silver and six bronze medals.
Games like no other
Liu Sitong was the only Para alpine skier representing China at PyeongChang 2018, where she finished outside of the top three in her two races.
Four years later, the athlete felt confident representing her country at home. Liu competed in five events and picked up four medals – a silver in the women’s giant slalom sitting and three bronze.
“My most memorable moment was when I received the medal while draped in the national flag at the medal ceremony,” said Liu, who tried skiing for the first time in 2016. “The weather at Yanqing alpine skiing venue was very cold but I felt a strong force behind me.”
Austria’s Aigner siblings, Veronika guided by sister Elisabeth and twins Barbara and Johannes, won nine medals in their Paralympic debut and helped their country land on top of the Para alpine skiing medals standings.
With three gold, nine silver and seven bronze medals, China finished third behind Norway.
“After my regrets about PyeongChang 2018, my mentality has been different. I was calm,” Liu said. “Looking back at the past, it was better for me to rise up and get better rather than getting myself stuck.”
History makers on ice
China’s Para ice hockey team also earned a place in the history books as they pulled off one of the biggest surprises at the Games.
Launching their Para ice hockey programme only five years before the home Games, the team defeated PyeongChang 2018 bronze medallists Republic of Korea 4-0 to earn a spot on the podium.
“The most memorable moment for me was the end of the bronze medal match between us and the Republic of Korea,” said Chinese player Cui Yutao. “Five years of hard work and tears turned into us singing.
“Beijing 2022 was another start for me and my team, and the Games allowed the world to learn about the Chinese Para ice hockey team,” the athlete added.
China opened their campaign at the National Indoor Stadium by winning all three of the group stage games. They beat Czech Republic 4-3 in the qualifying finals before losing to eventual gold medallists USA in the semifinal.
Team USA earned their fourth consecutive Paralympic gold medal in Para ice hockey after winning all four of their games at the National Indoor Stadium.
Igniting hope for women
While reaching the podium in their first-ever Paralympic Games was a historic feat in itself for the Chinese squad, the hosts also made headlines after Yu Jing became the third female Para ice hockey player in history to make a Paralympic appearance.
“Every athlete has an Olympic or Paralympic dream. I am lucky to be able to stand on stage of the Winter Paralympics and to be able to do my best to realise this dream,” Yu said. “We won our historic bronze medal and we made our dream a reality.”
Para ice hockey is a mixed-gender sport at the Paralympic Games but only two female players had competed in the world’s third biggest sporting event before Yu’s debut on 8 March 2022.
Norway’s Brit Mjaasund Oeyen played at Lillehammer 1994 and Lena Schroeder at PyeongChang 2018. Yu took to the ice during China’s 6-0 win over Italy on International Women’s Day.
“I created history for China as well as for the world, and finally made my Paralympic dream come true,” Yu said.
“Competing on the world stage, I showed the power of Chinese youth, demonstrated the power of women, and created hope for Chinese women in Paralympic ice hockey.”