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News posted on Friday 18th February, 2022

How many sports are there in the Paralympic Winter Games?

NZ Paralympian snowboarder Carl Murphy in 2018

With the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games taking place in two weeks, let’s take a closer look at which Para sports are included in the Paralympic Winter Games and learn more about each of those sports.

In total, there are six sports that make up the Paralympic Winter Games:

  1. Para alpine skiing
  2. Para snowboard
  3. Para cross-country skiing
  4. Para biathlon
  5. Para ice hockey
  6. Wheelchair curling

In Beijing, the six events will be held across six different venues in the competition zones of Beijing, Yanqing, and Zhangjiakou.

Para alpine skiing

The National Alpine Ski Centre in Yanqing hosts Para alpine skiing. Organisers of Beijing 2022 have used 290 snow cannons to prepare the mountains.

It took over two months and 49 million gallons of water to ensure the slopes are in pristine condition. Beijing is not the only venue to rely on additional help to support their annual snowfall. Vancouver, Sochi and PyeongChang all used snow cannons to ensure the snow conditions were perfect for competitors. Beijing’s slopes will be in peak condition when the Winter Paralympics kick off.

Para alpine skiing features five disciplines:

  1. Downhill
  2. Super-G
  3. Super Combined
  4. Giant Slalom
  5. Slalom

Para athletes compete in three categories based on their functional ability. The results calculation system allows Para athletes with different impairments to compete against each other.

At the PyeongChang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, 141 Para athletes from 33 countries competed in 30 different medal events. This will be the same in Beijing with 15 medal events for both male and female Para athletes. There will, however, be more slots open to Para athletes this time around. There are 140 for men and 80 for women. This means up to 220 Para athletes could compete in Para alpine skiing events in Beijing.

Para alpine skiers to watch

Look out for some superstars of Para alpine skiing. France’s Marie Bochet will aim to add to her impressive tally of eight Paralympic and 21 world titles in Beijing.

Jeroen Kampschreur from the Netherlands is another to watch. He became his country’s first ever Paralympic medallist when, aged 19, he won gold in the Super Combined event in PyeongChang.

Then of course there is our own Adam Hall. Hall will be competing at his fifth Paralympic Winter Games. He will aim to add to the gold medals he won in 2010 and 2018 in men’s Slalom – Standing. Two-time Paralympian Corey Peters and Paralympic debutant Aaron Ewen join Hall in the New Zealand team. Peters and Ewen both compete using a sit-ski. All three members of the team for Beijing 2022 will compete across both speed and technical disciplines in Para alpine skiing.

Hall had an excellent warm-up for the Paralympic Winter Games. He took home a silver medal in slalom at the World Para Snow Sports Championships in Lillehammer. He will be targeting medals in Beijing.

Para snowboard

The Genting Resort Secret Garden in the Chongli District, Zhangjiakou, will host Para snowboard. It will feature two disciplines:

  1. Snowboard-Cross
  2. Banked Slalom

Para snowboard was first introduced to the Paralympic Winter Games at Sochi 2014. In Beijing, Para snowboard will feature eight medal events across the three disciplines.

The sport was originally called Adaptive Snowboard referring to a modified version of the sport. Now, hundreds of Para athletes around the world practise the sport. Para athletes compete in three categories based on their functional ability – SB-LL1 and SB-LL2 for lower-limb impaired riders and SB-UL for upper-limb impaired Para athletes.

Para athletes combine speed and agility while racing down courses as fast as possible. The sport owes its success to the determination of a group of pioneering riders who in 2005 began their quest to have the sport included at the Paralympic Winter Games.

The USA is the most successful country at Para snowboard, having collected 17 medals across the two Winter Paralympics in which Para snowboard has featured. The Netherlands is the second most successful country, collecting five medals so far, including three golds.

American Mike Schultz will be aiming to add to his medal tally in Beijing having collected three gold medals to date.

Para biathlon

At Beijing 2022, the National Biathlon Centre will host Para biathlon. 18 gold medals will be up for grabs.

Para biathlon consists of two disciplines – cross country skiing and shooting. The Innsbruck 1988 Paralympic Winter Games first included Para biathlon for athletes with a physical impairment. In 1992, athletes with a visual impairment also became eligible to compete.

Para biathlon is one of the most fascinating and fun sports to watch at the Paralympic Winter Games. It demands laser focus, physical strength, and pinpoint accuracy.

Para biathletes with physical impairments compete in two categories – sitting and standing. Those with vision impairments compete in one category. A guide may support them.

Since Para biathlon was first introduced to the Games in 1988, Paralympians have won a total of 95 medals. Nineteen countries have won at least one medal in biathlon at the Paralympic Winter Games.

The events consist of a 2.0 or 2.5 km course skied three or five times in the free technique for a total race distance between 6-15 km, depending on whether it is the short, medium, or long distance race.

Between the two stages, athletes must hit two targets located at a distance of 10m. Each miss is penalised by an increase in the overall route time.

Para cross-country skiing

Para cross-country skiing and Para biathlon both fall under the Para Nordic skiing bracket. The National Biathlon Centre in Beijing will also host Para cross-country skiing.

The sport made its Paralympic debut in the first ever games in Örnsköldsvik, Sweden in 1976.

Para cross-country skiers can compete in individual or team, classical or freestyle events ranging from 2.5km to 20km in distance. Visually-impaired skiers compete with a guide while those with a physical impairment compete using either a sit-ski or standing using one or two skis and/or poles.

At the Pyeongchang 2018 Paralympic Winter Games, 155 Para athletes from 30 countries competed in 20 different medal events. The medal event programme will be unchanged for Beijing 2022 with 38 gold medals up for grabs – 18 for men, 18 for women and two mixed events. Like Para alpine skiing, the athlete quota has increased for the Para Nordic skiing events, with 120 slots available for men and 90 for women – up from 100 and 60 respectively.

Para ice hockey

The National Indoor Stadium will host Para ice hockey – a venue that hosted Wheelchair basketball at the Beijing 2008 Summer Paralympic Games. There will be a total of eight teams competing in Para ice hockey in Beijing and the USA will be aiming to win a fourth consecutive gold medal at the Winter Paralympics.

Para ice hockey made its debut at the Lillehammer 1994 Paralympic Winter Games and since then, it has quickly established itself as one of the most popular sports at the Paralympic Winter Games. It is fast-paced, highly physical and played by male and female athletes with a physical impairment in the lower part of the body.

Formerly known as ice sledge hockey, Para ice hockey players use double-blade sledges instead of skates that allow the puck to pass beneath. Players use two sticks, which have a spike-end for pushing and a blade-end for shooting. Therefore, with a quick flip of the wrist, the players can propel themselves using the spikes and then play the puck using the blade-end of the sticks. A player may use two sticks with blades to facilitate stick handling and ambidextrous shooting.

Whilst the USA is the most successful team at Para ice hockey, six countries have collected medals in the sport since its introduction and Norway and Canada also sit on a total of five medals along with the USA. Sweden, Japan, and Russia are the other nations to have picked up medals in Para ice hockey.

Wheelchair curling

At Beijing 2022, Wheelchair curling will take place in the Water Cube which staged Para swimming at Beijing 2008.

Wheelchair curling made its Paralympic debut at the Torino 2006 Paralympic Winter Games and in PyeongChang in 2018, the event was successfully expanded and featured teams from twelve countries.

Wheelchair curling is played similarly to non-disabled curling using the same rocks and on the same ice, although the rocks are thrown from a stationary wheelchair and there is no sweeping. Each team must be comprised of male and female players.

The sport is now practiced in 24 countries. While there are no current New Zealand Para athletes competing in Wheelchair curling, there could be opportunities to try it out at your local Curling Club.

Wheelchair curling is particularly significant for the host nation China. In PyeongChang, China won their first ever Winter Paralympics gold medal in Wheelchair curling.

There has been significant investment in Para sport in China in the build up to Beijing 2022. They will be hoping that home support will give them an advantage and they will add to their Wheelchair curling gold this time around.

Find out more about Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.

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