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In pursuit of Paralympic excellence

(Xinhua)    13:20, March 08, 2021

China's wheelchair curlers are preparing for the 2022 Winter Paralympics at a custom-built venue in Beijing's Yanqing district. [Photo/Xinhua]

One year out from the Games, Team China's preparations benefitting from nation's successful COVID-19 fight

One year away from the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics, Chinese athletes are well on track in their preparations for the event despite the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

China made a breakthrough at the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Games when it won the country's first ever Paralympic gold medal-in wheelchair curling.

Hopes are high the team can repeat the feat on home ice at the National Aquatics Center, aka the "Ice Cube", next year.

"We are eager to raise the Chinese national flag at the Ice Cube next year at the Beijing Paralympic Games and it's a goal we're trying to achieve," said Hu Junfu, assistant manager of the Chinese wheelchair curling team.

Like all athletes, the pandemic has forced China's Paralympians to tailor their preparations for the Games. But while competitive action has been severely limited, training has been as thorough as ever.

"When COVID-19 broke out, we formulated an effective program in virus prevention under the supervision of the China Disabled Persons' Federation. We provided various epidemic prevention materials including face masks and disinfectants," said Hu.

Para cross-country skiing is one of six sports that will feature at the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics. [WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY]

Thanks to the adoption of stringent anti-coronavirus measures, training continues apace for all of Team China's 124 Paralympic hopefuls in six sports-Para alpine skiing, Para snowboarding, Para cross-country skiing, Para biathlon, Para ice hockey and wheelchair curling. They are coached by 42 staff, including seven foreigners.

"We have a slogan that says, 'Everyone is part of the fight against COVID-19, everyone should be a model in the fight,'" said Hu.

"It was really encouraging to earn China its first-ever gold medal in Pyeongchang, but I have been reminding my athletes repeatedly that it's already in the past when they stepped down from the podium. We have to start from the very beginning and we have to keep training hard."

Wang Jianbin, manager of the Chinese Para ice hockey team which was established in 2016, is also eying a podium spot for his charges.

"Though our team was built not long ago, I have confidence we will reach our goal of a top-six finish while striving for third place. We are able to meet the objective, supported by our concerted efforts and team spirit," said Wang.

Wang's confidence stems from the squad's unwavering dedication and team spirit.

"For now, the players are in good form thanks to our consistent training. We have a great coaching team and a strong logistics support team," he said.

"We have a vibrant squad full of spirit, energy and bravery."

Team China's wheelchair curlers will defend their Paralympic title at the 2022 Beijing Games. [Photo/Xinhua]

According to Yong Zhijun, competition and training department director of the China Disabled Persons' Federation, China had only participated in two Para sports prior to its bid to host the 2022 Winter Olympics.

From a total of less than 50 Para athletes at that time, China now has a pool of around 1,000 to choose from.

Since 2016, China has collected 38 gold medals in 59 Paralympic series events.

As the Beijing Games help raise awareness about the importance of creating a convenient environment for people with disabilities, more barrier-free facilities have been installed around the country.

"There are 45 sports training centers for persons with disabilities in China. These sports facilities now are far better and more advanced, and persons with disabilities are engaging more and more in the development of the whole society," said Zhang Haidi, president of the China Disabled Persons' Federation.

The barrier-free facilities have been extended from the venues to other parts of the host cities-Beijing and Zhangjiakou, Hebei province-enabling persons with disabilities better access to winter sports.

The 2022 Paralympic Winter Olympics will feature 78 medal events across six sports, taking place at five competition venues across three zones-downtown Beijing, Yanqing district and Zhangjiakou.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)
(Web editor: Meng Bin, Liang Jun)

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