Paralympic Winter Games come to a close against a backdrop of war in Ukraine
The Paralympic Games have come to a close after nine days and 78 events that took place against the backdrop of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The closing ceremony on Sunday marked the end of the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympics, and centered around a message of peace and unity.
"Differences here did not divide us," said Andrew Parsons, president of the International Paralympic Committee, in remarks to the assembled crowd.
"Through this unity we have hope. Hopes for inclusion, hopes for harmony and importantly hopes for peace," Parsons said. "Humankind hopes to live in a world where dialogue prevails."
China led the way
Out of the competing countries, the host country China took home the most medals with 18 gold, 20 silver and 23 bronze medals for a total of 61.
Among China's accomplishments was the first Paralympic appearance of its ice hockey team just five years after it was formed. The team took home bronze and Jing Yu made more history as only the second woman ever to win a Paralympic medal in ice hockey.
Ukraine showed resilience despite the war at home
Ukraine followed in second place with 29 medals: 11 gold, 10 silver and eight bronze. It was the country's most medals ever at the winter Paralympic games. The performance and appearance by Ukrainian athletes was not just one of athleticism, but also of perseverance and strength as their home country was invaded the week before the games began.
With their wins, Ukraine's athletes took time to draw attention to what was happening in their country, including worries about their friends and families back home.
Ukrainian biathlete Dmytro Suiarko, who won bronze in the middle distance vision impaired event, said he had trouble concentrating in the biathlon because of what was happening. Suiarko said that his home had been "bombed and destroyed" during the games.
The Russia invasion prompted the International Paralympic Committee to ban all athletes from Russia from participating in the games. The committee also banned athletes from Belarus, a key Russian ally, from competing.
U.S. won gold in para ice hockey
On the last day of the games, the U.S. and Canada met on the ice in what was a rematch of sorts from four years ago in Pyeongchang, South Korea. The U.S. took home the gold with a 5-0 win over their Canadian rivals. The win marked the fourth consecutive Paralympic ice hockey title for Team USA.
Overall, the U.S. came in fourth place in the overall medal count with six gold, 11 silver and three bronze for a total of 20. Canada came in third place overall in the total medal count with 25.
The U.S. also won gold medals in different categories of snowboarding, biathlon and cross country skiing.
In snowboarding, Brenna Huckaby won gold in women's banked slalom — in which she also won gold in 2018. Before being able to compete in this year's games, Huckaby had to file an injunction with a German court to even compete in the games.
She said the fight was worth it and called the medal "icing on the cake" in a Instagram post after her podium ceremony. Huckaby also took home the bronze in snowboard cross.
Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.