The Winter Paralympic Games will be taking place on 4-13 March, so it’s time to get familiar with all the official sports that will take place on the beautiful snow-covered mountains of Beijing. Here’s what you need to know to follow all the action.

THE SPORTS

PARA ALPINE SKIING
Open to athletes with physical impairments such as, spinal injury, cerebral palsy, amputation or a visual impairment. Athletes may use adapted equipment, for example, sit-skiis, single skiis or orthopaedic aids, and athletes with a visual impairment are accompanied by a sighted guide who uses signals and speech to guide the skier down the curse. You will find five events under the para alpine skiing umbrella: downhill, super-G, super combined, giant slalom, and slalom.

Downhill – this is a single run down a steep course where the competitors must pass through several gates on their way down. If an athlete misses a gate they are disqualified. The fastest time wins.

Slalom – this race consists of two runs of two different courses. The courses are shorter than other events but more technical due to the higher number of gates. If an athlete misses a gate they are disqualified. Athletes complete the two runs on the same day and their times are added together to determine the winner. 

Giant slalom – very similar to the slalom, the giant slalom features two different courses, but they are longer and have fewer gates. The number of gates is determined by the vertical drop of the course. The athletes complete the two runs on the same day and the times are added together to determine their placing. Again, if an athlete misses a gate they are disqualified.

Super-G – an event of speed. Each athlete takes one race down the course and their final time is used to determine their position. The course in generally longer than the slalom and giant slalom courses, but shorter than the downhill course. Missing a gate will trigger automatic disqualification – you should know this by now. 

Super combined – this competition tests two disciplines. Athletes compete in either the downhill or super-G and a run of the slalom on the same day. The times are then added together to produce the final winning order. No missing any gates on either course, you know the drill.

Winter Paralympic

Image credit: SA Images

PARA NORDIC SKIING
This is the collective name for para biathlon and para cross-country skiing (we are unsure why they were shoved under a collective umbrella, but that’s just how it is). 

Biathlon – open to athletes with physical impairments or visual impairments, athletes are divided into three competing categories: standing, sitting, visually impaired. The events consist of either a 2km or 2.5km course with athletes racing the course between three and six times depending on the event they are competing in. These courses also incorporate shooting rounds, athletes will compete in either two or four rounds depending on the race distance, they must hit a target at 10m with a rifle – any misses result in an increase on their overall route time. The visually impaired athletes use the assistance of acoustic signals that indicate their proximity to the target.

The Beijing 2022 Paralympic Games will have 18 medal events on offer, female athletes will compete in either 6km, 10km or 12.km, and male athletes will compete in distances of 7.5km, 12.5km or 15km.

Cross-country skiing – just as it sounds, this is literally skiing across the country. It is an endurance event that tests the power and stamina of the athletes competing. Race distances can range from 1km – 30km (we know the race we would rather compete in) and the races are split into classical and freestyle techniques. The split came after athletes at Innsbruck in 1984 began using a skating method in the race rather than the classical style. In 1992 this new freestyle technique was officially instated. 

Open to athletes with physical impairments or a visual impairment, the events are also divided into: sitting, standing, visually impaired. Events include sprint, short distance, middle distance, long distance and mixed relays for male and female athletes at the years’ Winter Paralympic Games.

Credit image: ParalympicsGB

PARA ICE HOCKEY
Directly descended from ice hockey, para ice hockey follows the rules of the International Ice Hockey Federation with modifications. Instead of skates the players use double blade sledges that allow the puck to pass beneath, and they have the use of two sticks which have a blade at one end for pushing the puck and spikes on the other end to allow them to push on the ice – that’s right they have two sticks with spikes on them – what could possibly go wrong? 

Para ice hockey, also known as sledge or sled hockey, is a fast-paced game that is filled with thrill, injury and excitement. Teams can be made up of male and female athletes, although there have only been two female players who have competed at the Paralympics: Bri Mjasund Oejen from Norway in 1994, and Lena Schroeder, also from Norway, in 2018. Teams are allowed six players, this includes the goalkeeper, on the ice at any one time, and the game is played in three 15-minute periods.

If you like a fast-paced, reasonably violent sporting experience, then para ice hockey is for you.

PARA SNOWBOARD
Para snowboard made its debut at the Sochi 2014 Winter Paralympic Games and it proved to be a huge success receiving worldwide media attention.

This exciting sport is for highly skilled athletes with a physical impairment, such as spinal injury, cerebral palsy or amputation. Athletes compete in three categories based on functional ability – SB-LL1 and SB-LL2 for athletes with lower limb impairments and SB-UL for athletes with upper limb impairments.

There will be a total of eight medal events at the Paralympics, with female athletes competing in SB-LL2 banked slalom and SB-LL2 snowboard cross – there are no events for female athletes with upper limb impairments on the roster this year. Male athletes will have events for SB-LL1, SB-LL2 and SB-UL categories across banked slalom and snowboard cross. 

Banked slalom – the course for this run is preferably a varying natural terrain that offers lots of bumps and dips, a natural U-shaped valley is what they are looking for. Each rider takes three runs down the course and their best time is used to determine their final placing. Only one rider competes on the course at any one time.

Snowboard-cross – courses are manmade over a variety of terrain and may allow for construction of approved features to challenge riders. Each athlete does three runs of the course and their best run is used to determine their placing. Only one rider is allowed on the course at a time.

Winter Paralympic

Credit image: ParalympicsGB

WHEELCHAIR CURLING
Introduced in 2006 to the Torino Winter Paralympic Games, wheelchair curling is now a firm favourite with viewers. Teams are made up of male and female athletes, and rules state that a minimum of one female athlete must be on the ice at all times. The sport is open to athletes who have a physical impairment in the lower half of their body, such as spinal cord injury, double-leg amputation, MS and cerebral palsy. 

Teams are made up of five players: a lead, second, vice-skip, skip and an alternate. The game is played on a long stretch of ice which has a target at one end called the ‘house’. The aim of the game is to throw your curling stones as close the centre of the house as possible, knocking any opponents stones further away. Each team takes eight shots and the team whose stone is closest to the centre of the house – also known as the ‘button’ – is deemed the winner, multiple points can also be awarded for situations where multiple stones are closer to the button than their opponents. The game is played over eight ends. 

Wheelchair curlers take their shots from a stationary position with their wheelchair locked and a teammate positioned behind them for stability, they use a delivery stick to push the stone. The only difference in wheelchair curling from the traditional game is that there is no sweeping (an action that helps to guide the stone on the ice), meaning wheelchair curlers must be more precise in their throws.

Winter Paralympic

Credit image: ParalympicsGB

ONES TO WATCH

Menna Fitzpatrick (guide Katie Guest)
Sport: Para Alpine Skiing
Category: Visually impaired
Classification: B2

Menna Fitzpatrick and her former guide Jen Kehoe, were responsible for winning the only ParalympicsGB gold medal at the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Paralympic Games in the women’s slalom, alongside 2 silvers and a bronze. Menna now races with new guide Katie Guest, and they will be coming fresh off the slopes from the World Para Snow Sports Championships in Lillehammer, where they won gold in the slalom and silver in the super combined.

Millie Knight (guide Brett Wild)
Sport: Para Alpine Skiing
Category: Visually impaired
Classification: B2

This will be Millie Knight’s third Games of her career. She made her debut performance at the 2014 Sochi Winter Paralympic Games at the age of 15, making her the youngest ever competitor at a Winter Games. In PyeongChang she won two silver medals and a bronze, and she has just won a gold in the super combined at the World Para Snow ports Championships in Lillehammer. 

Neil Simpson (guide Andrew Simpson)
Sport: Para Alpine Skiing
Category: Visually impaired
Classification: B3

Making his debut appearance at this Winter Paralympic Games, Neil Simpson is looking set to show the world what he can do. His guide is his brother, Andrew Simpson, and they have just taken home a silver medal in the super combined from the World Para Snow Sports Championships.

James Barnes-Miller
Sport: Snowboard
Category: Upper limb impairment
Classification: SB-UL

James competed in PyeongChang in 2018 but he unfortunately didn’t medal that year. This will be his second appearance at a Winter Paralympic Games and he will be all fired from winning two bronze medals at the recent World Para Snow Sports Championships in Lillehammer, Norway. He came away with bronze in the dual banked slalom and a bronze in the team event alongside his teammate Ollie Hill.

Wheelchair Curling team
The five-strong team is comprised of Hugh Nibloe, Gregor Ewan, Meggan Dawson-Farrell, David Melrose and Charlotte McKenna. 2014 saw the GB wheelchair curling team take home bronze, and Gregor Ewan was a proud member of that team. The new line-up combines experience and fresh eagerness from its newest team members, so watch this space.

DID YOU KNOW

  • Beijing will be the first city to host both the Summer and Winter Paralympic Games
  • Shuey Rhon Rhon is this year’s mascot, a Chinese lantern child exuding warmth and positivity
  • UK Sport confirmed a target of 5-9 medals
  • There will be 5 sports to compete in
  • A total of 78 events taking place
  • 14 countries will take part from across the globe
  • 736 athletes will compete

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