Paralympic Games Set to Get Underway Amidst International Chaos

Jack Schoen, Staff Writer

The 2022 Paralympic Games will begin in Beijing on March 4 and last nine days. Seven hundred thirty-six Paralympians will be competing across 78 medal events. As with the Olympic Games, the Paralympics are split into the winter and summer games, with the athletes split into six different disability groups: Amputee, cerebral palsy, visual impairment, spinal cord injuries, intellectual disability and “les autres” (any disability that does not fit into the above categories, such as “dwarfism”). According to the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) website, all of these athletes may compete in any one of six different sports during the winter games: Alpine skiing, biathlon, sled hockey, cross country skiing, snowboarding and wheelchair curling. Most athletes will be assessed and scored with similar metrics to the equivalent sports in the Winter Olympics, but they may compete with additional equipment to make the sports accessible. 

As with the Winter Olympics that ended in February, international politics have encroached their way into the games. Amid growing resentment towards Russian athletes over the use of performance enhancing drugs, as well as recent military action against Ukraine, another international competition has examined its relationship with Russian athletes. The IPC, along with the International Olympic Committee, has tweeted condemnations of Russian aggression in Ukraine, claiming they broke the “Olympic truce” through their military action. The IPC also reasserted their commitment to impartiality, and is allowing the ROC to send their athletes to Beijing.

Although the Paralympics unfortunately have been unfairly associated with political situations beyond their control, there is still plenty to be excited for in the upcoming games. Several American Paralympians will be returning or competing for the first time, hoping to win gold for their country. Male Alpine Skier Andrew Kurka, who was profiled by Sports Illustrated, originally competed as a top ranked wrestler hoping to someday make it to the Olympics. After a severe ATV crash injured his spine and ended his wrestling career, the Alaskan native began competing in adaptive skiing competitions at the recommendation of his physical therapist. A decade and a half after the accident he is now competing in his fourth Paralympic Games, hoping to defend his gold medal in the Downhill Sitting event. Dani Aravish will be joining Kurka in Beijing in her first Winter Paralympics after competing in distance running at the Tokyo Games in 2021. Born without her left hand and forearm, she began training in Nordic Skiing immediately after the Summer Paralympics. She is hoping to continue the success of her Paralympic career as one of only a handful of two season athletes. 

Despite current global political crises, the games offer exciting competition and a rare opportunity to illustrate international unity.