Beijing Paralympics set to begin this week

Society & Culture

China, which has won only one medal in the Winter Paralympics, is sending its largest-ever delegation to Beijing 2022. Will home advantage help its athletes achieve breakthrough success?

Wang Haitao

The Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympic Games are set to open on Friday. Like the Olympics that concluded last Sunday, the Paralympics will also be spread over the three locations of Yanqing, Zhangjiakou, and Beijing, and will operate under the same “closed-loop” system used earlier this month.

The Games will conclude on Monday, March 13.

After watching Team China achieve historic success during the Winter Olympics, China’s parathletes will hope for similarly good results. But unlike their hugely successful summer counterparts, China’s winter parathletes have traditionally struggled to make an impact.

China has won only a single medal in the Winter Paralympics: a solitary gold in Pyeongchang four years ago in wheelchair curling.

China is sending its largest-ever delegation to this year’s Games, its sixth Paralympics: 217 members, including 96 athletes. They will compete in 73 events across six sports.

Carrying the banner is China’s wheelchair curling team, currently the top-ranked team in the world, recently winning the Kuntai World Wheelchair Curling Championship 2021 in Beijing last October. Can the team, led by 32-year-old captain Wáng Hǎitāo 王海涛, overcome the pressure of being the favorites?

Also keep an eye on the Nordic events. With 33 Chinese athletes set to take part in 38 cross-country skiing and biathlon events, there is an opportunity for multiple medals. Names to look out for include Liú Sītóng 刘思彤 and Zhāng Wénjìng 张雯静 in women’s sitting, and teenager Zhāng Mèngqiū 张梦秋 who won China’s first-ever gold medal at the World Para Alpine Skiing World Cup in 2019, in women’s standing.

Zhang Mengqiu

Sit skiers Liú Mèngtāo 刘梦涛and Shàn Yílín 单怡霖 both recently won silver medals at the Europa Cup in Finland last December.

Zhèng Péng 郑鹏, who finished fourth in the men’s 15k cross-country sitting skiing in Pyeongchang, will be seeking redemption. Mǎ Míngtāo 马明涛 is another veteran cross-country skier to watch for, while 20-year-old Wáng Chényáng 王晨阳 represents youthful optimism.


Beijing 2022 champion gives away gold in protest

Nils van der Poel with Angela Gui

Double Olympic champion Nils van der Poel has given away one of his gold medals to Angela Gui, the daughter of bookseller Guì Mínhǎi 桂敏海, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison on claims that he provided “intelligence to foreign entities.”

Gui ran the Causeway Bay Bookstore, which was known for its books on Chinese leaders and political scandals. According to Amnesty International, Gui was disappeared in Thailand in 2015 before he appeared on Chinese state media in 2016, giving an apparently forced confession to a hit-and-run several years earlier.

After being released in 2017, Gui was placed under heavy surveillance and was seized again in 2018. He was sentenced two years later.

Angela, who was born in Sweden after her father fled the mainland following the Tiananmen protests, has reportedly faced intimidation from Chinese agents.

Van der Poel, who is Swedish, secured gold in the 5,000m and 10,000m speed skating events. He criticized the Games following his return home, declaring that the awarding of the Olympics to China was “extremely irresponsible.”

“I am not the voice of all Olympians, but me and my friends dedicated our lives to strive for excellence within sports, and the Chinese government chose to use our dreams as a political weapon to legitimize their regime,” Van der Poel said. “To me that was personal, and I felt exploited. I wish for the human rights issues in China to improve and for Gui Minhai to be set free. It’s a lot to ask but it is the only reasonable thing to ask.”

China Digital Times has a roundup of other Olympic athletes who have spoken up about China’s human rights abuses, including British freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy and German luge champion Natalie Geisenberger.


Other Stories:

Meet Shuey Rhon Rhon: China’s Adorable Paralympic Mascot (That’s Beijing)

F1 trailblazer Zhou not just making up the numbers (Reuters)

Taiwan Premier orders investigation into “extremely inappropriate” video of speed skater (Insider)

Guangzhou FC announce pay cuts (China Daily)

Vanished Mountain: Zhangjiakou’s First Ski Resort (The World of Chinese)

China’s professional women’s hockey team continues playing in Russia (Mark Dreyer)

The China Sports Column runs every week. Click here for our coverage of Beijing 2022.