The Paralympic flame goes out on Sunday for the Winter Games, after ten days of exceptional performances by athletes from the host country and Ukrainians faced with the invasion of their country. With 12 medals, including seven gold, the French team finished in a fine 4th place in the medal table, behind China, Ukraine and Canada.
Goodbye Beijing, see you soon Milan-Cortina: the Paralympic flame goes out on Sunday at the Winter Games, after ten days of exceptional performances by athletes from the host country and Ukrainians faced with the invasion of their country. As at the opening, it is the Olympic stadium in the Chinese capital, the emblematic “Bird’s Nest”, which will host a ceremony concocted by the famous director Zhang Yimou. On this occasion, the baton will be passed to the next hosts of the Winter Games in 2026: the metropolis of Milan, associated with the ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo in the Dolomites.
Games marked by war in Ukraine
Ukraine was invited to the organizers’ menu just before the start of the Games, with a difficult question around the exclusion, or not, of athletes from Russia and Belarus – a country which is cooperating in the Russian invasion. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) had called for them to be banned from sports competitions until further notice. After allowing the athletes concerned to compete under a “neutral” banner, the IPC reversed its decision the following day, citing opposition from numerous national Paralympic committees, threats of a boycott and tensions in the athletes’ village.
All this turmoil did not disturb the sports performance of Ukrainians. Arrived in extremis in Beijing after a dantesque journey by bus through Europe, they went after themselves. Ukraine has won a total of 29 medals (including 11 gold), in biathlon and cross-country skiing. During the Games, a Ukrainian sportswoman learned that her father, a soldier, had been taken prisoner by the Russians. Another won a gold medal days after discovering her home in Kharkiv had been bombed.
China first in medal standings, ahead of Ukraine
“To compete here at such a high level, knowing that your family and your country are under attack, is just unbelievable,” Andrew Parsons said on Saturday. “It’s one of the most incredible displays of resilience I’ve seen in my life. In and out of sport.” Lesson learned from these Games: China, the host country, has asserted itself as a new power in para-winter sports. With 61 medals in total (including 18 gold), she is first in the standings ahead of Ukraine and Canada. Committed to the Winter Paralympics from Salt Lake City (2002), the Asian giant had only won his first medal in Pyeongchang (2018) with curling gold. His success in Beijing amazes even his own athletes.
“We weren’t really aware of our level (…) because we haven’t taken part in many competitions abroad lately”, Covid obliges, Liu Sitong told AFP, winner of four medals in alpine skiing. Competitions were still taking place on Sunday.
With 12 medals, France finished 4th
The French won silver in cross-country skiing (relay) and the young skier Arthur Bauchet, standard bearer at the closing ceremony, won his fourth medal of the Games in the slalom (standing category), the third in gold. France, with 12 medals (including seven gold) finished in fourth place in the ranking.
The Americans beat the Canadians 5-0 in the sledge hockey final. “I have a heavy heart at the moment. I think it will take some time to get over it. You should already be proud to have arrived here,” said Canadian player Tyler McGregor. In alpine skiing, Norwegian prodigy Jesper Pedersen, 22, won his fourth Paralympic gold medal in the slalom (sitting category). He had already won silver in the downhill. Another satisfaction: very few positive cases of coronavirus have been identified in the health bubble, already in place for the Olympic Games and which isolated athletes, officials and staff from the rest of the Chinese population.