Program builds up pool of nearly 1,000 disabled athletes covering all major events
The Chinese delegation to the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympics, to be inaugurated on Monday, will compete in all six sports at the Games.
The Paralympics will take place from March 4 to 13, with athletes competing in 78 different events across six sports: wheelchair curling, para ice hockey, cross-country skiing, biathlon, Alpine skiing and snowboarding.
Yong Zhijun, deputy director of the China Disabled Persons' Federation's sports department, told a news conference on Sunday that after a late start, China's winter Paralympic movement has grown rapidly in recent years.
Before 2015, China only competed in cross-country skiing and wheelchair curling. At the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Paralympics, China was represented by just four athletes. Ten Chinese athletes took part in the Sochi Games in 2014, with the wheelchair curling team finishing in fourth place.
At the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Paralympics, China's wheelchair curling team achieved a major breakthrough by winning the gold medal.
In 2015, Beijing and the city of Zhangjiakou in Hebei province won the bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympic and Paralympic Games, ushering in a major opportunity for China's winter parasports, Yong said.
The country set up a leading work group with the China Disabled Persons' Federation and kicked off intense preparation for the Games, he added.
Yong said the federation has formulated a series of plans, selected athletes from across the country, employed high-level coaches from home and abroad and built national training halls for winter para-sports competitions. The number of Chinese Paralympic athletes has increased from less than 50 to nearly 1,000, covering all major events at the Games.
To boost the performance of participating athletes, the federation has carried out training throughout the year, Yong said, adding that all athletes are now engaged in their final training sessions at bases in Beijing, the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, and the provinces of Hebei and Gansu.
Yong said the federation has signed strategic cooperation agreements with Finland, Russia and other countries that are strong in winter sports, invited foreign parasports teams to China for exchanges before the COVID-19 outbreak, and organized winter para-games across the country.
In January 2020, China held the Winter Paralympic Asia Cup for the first time. Last year, the federation organized competitions in cross-country skiing, Alpine skiing and snowboarding to create more opportunities for athletes to participate, he added.
In January, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed that China has successfully engaged more than 300 million people in ice and snow activities, with the efforts also including the participation of people with disabilities, Yong said.
Since 2016, the federation has held an annual Ice and Snow Sports Season for Persons with Disabilities, with participation expanding from 14 provinces to the whole country.
The event, which includes a variety of activities, has stimulated the enthusiasm of people with disabilities for ice and snow sports and had a profound impact on the popularization of winter sports, Yong said.