13 March 2022

‘Best of humanity’ on show at Winter Paralympics – Dame Katherine Grainger

13 March 2022

Dame Katherine Grainger believes the Beijing Winter Paralympics have displayed the “best side of humanity and sport” in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Athletes from Russia and Belarus were banned from participating by the International Paralympic Committee due to their nation’s roles in the ongoing war.

The Ukrainian team, meanwhile, finished second behind hosts China in the medal table after amassing 11 golds, 10 silvers and eight bronzes.

UK Sport chair Grainger says continuing conflict in eastern Europe was a “constant presence” during the event and has been heartened by the solidarity shown.

“There’s been an incredible sense of support from all of the nations, you can really feel it and it really is very genuine,” she told the PA news agency.

“And it’s just really powerful when you see those nations coming together.

“What Ukraine have managed to do, their performance has been absolutely outstanding here. All of us can only imagine what they must be experiencing and thinking about, and their athletes have really done their nation proud.

“It has been a constant presence here and it’s right that it has been because I don’t think as sport you can be completely independent of what’s happening around the world.

“But I think people have shown the best side of humanity and sport in supporting Ukraine.

“There’s probably a sense of helplessness from a lot of us about what really we can do to make a difference.

“Sport has a voice and has an influence and it’s right that every one of us and every organisation thinks what can we do in this situation and where we can we help.

“I think sport has done what it can in the last 10 days or so while we’ve been here.”

Sunday’s closing ceremony brought down the curtain on nine days of action across six sports.

Neil Simpson and guide Andrew Simpson won ParalympicsGB’s only gold in Beijing (Simon Bruty for OIS/PA) (PA Media)

ParalympicsGB finished 14th in the overall standings following a gold, a silver and four bronzes, leaving them inside UK Sport’s target range of five to nine medals.

The government agency put more than £5million into winter sports over the last cycle, the vast majority of which was allocated to skiing and snowboarding.

Grainger viewed GB’s achievements as “really positive” and says there is a concerted effort to have more impact in winter sport going into the 2026 Games in Milan and Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy.

“The belief is still very much that we want to be a greater force in winter sport looking forward,” said the 46-year-old, who won Olympic rowing gold at London 2012.

“I don’t think that’s ever going to happen overnight, I don’t think we thought in one or two cycles we’d achieve that.

“But every time we come out and compete, it’s really important we have great success stories and we have really inspirational athletes, that’s on and off the podium.

“Winter sports don’t have the history and tradition in the UK that some of the big summer sports have had so every time we compete in the winter Games it’s a brilliant learning experience of how we do it better next time so we keep moving forward to that goal of being a greater force.”

A total of 24 British athletes competed, the country’s largest team since Lillehammer in 1994.

Neil Simpson made history by claiming GB’s first male Paralympic gold on snow, triumphing alongside guide and brother Andrew in the Super-G vision-impaired class, before backing it up with bronze in the super combined.

Fellow skier Menna Fitzpatrick, ParalympicsGB’s most decorated athlete, added a silver and a bronze to her collection while there was also a milestone moment for Ollie Hill as he won GB’s first Paralympic snowboard medal after finishing third in the banked slalom.

Menna Fitzpatrick is ParalympicsGB’s most decorated athlete (Simon Bruty for OIS/PA) (PA Media)

“It’s lovely to watch a team deliver things that haven’t been delivered before and that’s really exciting,” said Grainger.

“I think that gives people quite an inspiration of the ambition for the future.

“They’ve delivered a lot but they will be hungry for more in the future and that’s probably the best legacy to leave: to be really proud of the achievements but to not feel content with them quite yet.”

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