The Olympic celebrations continued in March with the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing! The Games took place over nine days and featured 78 events, featuring even more world records broken and gold medals won.
The idea for the Paralympic games first came about after World War II to give wounded veterans and civilians from the war an opportunity to compete, as sports and recreation became a part of rehabilitative therapy. The first official Paralympic summer games took place in Rome, Italy in 1960, followed by the winter games in Sweden’s 1976 Olympics.
China took the lead at this year's Paralympic Games, winning the most medals of any competing country with a total medal count of 61; 18 gold, 20 silver, and 23 bronze. Team USA came in fourth overall, with six gold, 11 silver, and three bronze, with a total medal count of 20.
Check out some of the best highlights from this year's games below!
Team USA took home gold in ice hockey against Canada on the final day of the games, in a rematch game from the 2018 games in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The 5-0 win was Team USA’s fourth consecutive gold medal in ice hockey at the Paralympics!
China’s hockey team, which was created only five years ago, took home the bronze medal this year, beating South Korea 4-0. China’s hockey team was the only team at the 2022 games to have a female team member, and in a timely celebration of International Women’s Day on March 8th, Jing Yu was just the third woman to compete in the Winter Paralympics ice hockey tournament, and only the second to win a medal!
Jing played during the 6-0 win against Italy and said that she wishes to inspire women through her win: “there are many girls in China who would like to join the sport and there are already many who play it," said Jing. "I am the representative of these female players in this team. I got the chance to play for the national team and be on this stage to show the power of Chinese women to the world."
Cross-country skier Yang Hongqiong became the most decorated Chinese Para-Olympian after winning three gold medals at this year's games in long-distance and sprint sitting. The thirty-two-year-old athlete only took up the sport of skiing in 2018, stating "the Olympic spirit is what gets me going. I wasn't expecting to win anything but just to give it my all.” Yang was chosen to be the flag bearer at the closing ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Paralympics.
Oksana Masters also made history at this year's Paralympics, not only by winning Team USA its first gold medal of the 2022 games but by winning a record-breaking seven medals in biathlon and cross-country skiing, earning more medals than any other American athlete in Paralympic game history. Oksana Masters, who also competes in the Summer Paralympics, has a total of 17 medals and is the most decorated Winter Paralympic athlete of all time!
Team USA’s Brenna Huckaby won gold in the women's banked slalom for the second consecutive Paralympic games. Huckaby had to fight to compete this year after the International Paralympic Committee tried to cancel her classification, saying there were not enough women to compete, while also claiming she was too disabled to compete in another category. Huckaby took the issue to the German courts who ruled in her favor and allowed her to compete. She also took home the bronze medal in snowboard cross.
Ukraine Takes Second Amidst Russian Invasion
Ukraine placed second overall, just behind China, at this year's Paralympic Games with a total of 29 medals. The team considered their arrival in China to be a “miracle” as it was uncertain if they would be able to leave the country because of logistical concerns due to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. The athletes competed under intense circumstances as the athletes worried about their loved ones back home.
Ukraine’s paralympic chief, Valerii Sushkevych, said “this has never happened in our history. At recent World Cups, they could only manage fifth or sixth place. We had the World Championships in January and none of these athletes won medals. War is a great motivation, a powerful motivation."
Despite the challenge, Ukraine delivered its best-ever results at the Paralympic Games, taking home a total of 11 gold medals, ending the competition on a high note with a gold medal in cross-country skiing's open relay on the last day of the games.
A Medal Worth Winning
China, the host country and the winning country at the 2022 Paralympic Games put a lot of detail and effort into this year's medal design, making sure to incorporate Chinese cultural designs alongside the artist's creative elements. Both the Olympic and Paralympic medals from the Winter Games follow a similar design, with the Paralympic medals incorporating the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) logo and writing in braille beads.
The send-off message for the Games was “hopes for peace,” as IPC President Andrew Parsons gave a speech focused on the message of unity. "Through this unity we have hope. Hopes for inclusion, hopes for harmony, and importantly hopes for peace," Parsons said. "Humankind hopes to live in a world where dialogue prevails."
With the closing ceremony of the Paralympic Winter Games, the Olympic celebrations and ceremonies in Beijing have concluded for 2022 and will continue in Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo, Italy in 2026.