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2022-03-14 10:27:34

China set a new record at the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympics, with its athletes winning the most gold and overall medals since the country began participating in the Games two decades ago.

Team China secured 61 medals, including 18 gold, by the end of the Winter Paralympics on Sunday, followed by Ukraine and Canada. Chinese athletes won gold in events including cross-country skiing, para biathlon, and snowboarding.

China’s Paralympics victory is being celebrated as a historic feat, considering the country only took its first gold during the 2018 Winter Paralympics in Pyeongchang. The country’s Paralympic team debuted at the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.

After Beijing won the Winter Olympics and Paralympics bid in 2015, the China Disabled Persons’ Federation developed various action plans to revitalize winter Paralympic events, as well as ice and snow activities, for people with disabilities. Those included establishing national teams and holding training camps and competitions leading up to this year’s Games, according to state-run Xinhua News Agency.

Zhao Xin, an employee at a social organization for disabled people in the northwestern city of Baoji, told Sixth Tone that the Winter Paralympics in Beijing have done more than just encourage more people to join ice and snow sports. He said it has promoted the application of assistive devices for disabled people and raised public awareness for the need for barrier-free environments for people with disabilities.

China has an estimated 85 million people living with various disabilities. Though accessibility for the disabled has improved over the years, some barrier-free facilities are still under development, lack maintenance, or have design problems.

Zhao added that the wheelchairs developed for winter sports, whose effectiveness was proven during the Games, could potentially be used in other sectors, including medical rehabilitation. He added that the infrastructure during the 2022 Games had dramatically improved since the 2008 Summer Games in Beijing.

“If in 2008 we focused more on the ‘hardware’ itself, then this time we focused more on ‘attitude’ and ‘software,’” Zhao said.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: Bronze medalists from Team China celebrate after defeating South Korea by 4-0 in the Para Ice Hockey Bronze Medal Game at the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics, in Beijing, March 12, 2022. Ryan Pierse/Getty Images/VCG)