It has been a huge privilege to attend a second Paralympic Games with ParalympicsGB in the space of just six months. From Tokyo to Beijing, it has been wonderful to witness British athletes demonstrating their passion and performance on the world stage.
For these Winter Games a team of 24 athletes travelled to the ice and mountains of Beijing to compete against the best in the world.
ParalympicsGB are once again returning with an impressive set of medals and Beijing marks the third successive winter Games that a British athlete has reached the top of the podium.
That’s a positive sign of developing consistency and helps the longer term aim for winter sports to become an ever-greater force in British sport.
The gold medal in Beijing came courtesy of Neil Simpson and his brother and guide Andrew in alpine skiing’s VI Super G.
The arrival, and elevated coverage, of the Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games every four years often prompts questions around what Great Britain and Northern Ireland can achieve given the ‘lack of snow’ in the country. It is therefore important to acknowledge the success of Neil and his guide Andrew, as brothers who learnt to ski on dry slopes in Aberdeen. Neil only had his first taste of international competition during this last four-year cycle. They are now leaving Beijing with a gold and bronze medal.
The support networks that National Governing Bodies provide, alongside the impressive standards set by the British Paralympic Association team, makes sure British athletes are given every opportunity to fulfil their potential.
In VI alpine skier Menna Fitzpatrick we now have the most decorated British Winter Paralympian with six medals in total – after winning silver and bronze at these Games, alongside her guide Gary Smith. Having got to know Menna a little over the last two Winter Games her fantastic achievements are matched by her excellent attitude to life, and she should be rightly proud of not only what she has achieved but how she has achieved.
Her success is even more remarkable knowing that just days before the Beijing Games, Menna had to change guides. Her positivity didn’t falter however, and her passion and performance, like all of the British team at the Games, was truly remarkable.
With another VI alpine skier, Millie Knight, also winning bronze in Beijing with guide Brett Wild (her fourth career Winter Paralympic medal) and Ollie Hill achieving the same feat on his debut in snowboarding’s banked parallel slalom, there are more medallists than in PyeongChang four years ago. Ollie’s bronze is a significant first Paralympic snowboarding medal and Owen Pick was hot on his heels in fourth place.
Each and every athlete here in Beijing has been a credit to themselves and the sports they represent. From wheelchair curler David Melrose bouncing back from suffering a shoulder injury on the ice, to Steve Arnold battling back from covid to take to the snow at his first Paralympics they have all shown great resilience and drive.
The team are superb ambassadors for the Paralympic movement and the spirit of the Games. As well as the challenges a global pandemic creates, the build up to the Games were obviously dramatically impacted by the tragedies happening in Ukraine. The team have used their platform to show solidarity and the global sporting community has stood united with the people of Ukraine.
Beijing has been an undoubted success for ParalympicsGB and another step forward for Winter Paralympic sport in the UK. We are thankful for the role of Government and The National Lottery continue to play in providing the financial support that enables athletes to pursue their dreams.
Following the excitement and inspiration of these Winter Games we are optimistic for the future for winter sports and are committed to making them ever more relevant and accessible as we now look towards Milan-Cortina in 2026.