Hanging with Shuey Rhon Rhon in Beijing

I had the pleasure to represent Paralympics New Zealand at the 2022 Winter Paralympic Games in Beijing. Having missed the summer games in Tokyo this was an opportunity of a lifetime.

The NZ team consisted of 3 athletes – Paralympians Adam Hall #158 and Corey Peters #188, both of whom I watched racing at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games in South Korea, and debutant Aaron Ewen #288. What amazing performances from these three Para alpine skiers – Corey taking the top podium spot with a gold and a silver, and Adam coming home with 2 bronzes.

These games were not only memorable for the Covid-19 closed loop system meant athletes, teams and officials were isolated from the local communities which were hosting us – think MIQ supersized, but also for the change in world politics at the time with Russian invading the Ukraine. Sitting in NZ we are very fortunate to be immune from many of the global political issues faced by other countries which I think may have been lost on many of the protesters at Parliament who were still encamped on the front lawn when I departed for Beijing.

Travelling at this time was also surreal. Our team had clear Covid-19 protocols in place which meant we were seated separately from each other on the long flights and encouraged not to mingle with others. We all succeeded in getting to and from Beijing in good health with no one catching covid.

During my time in Yanjing, which is about 1 1/2hrs west of Beijing, close to the mountains where the alpine skiing was located, we experienced fine, sunny and clear but cold days (-6 not uncommon), hazy days when you couldn’t see the mountains and also an amazing sand storm which rolled in from the Gobi Desert, 1100km away, which still left sand on the ski slopes and a bit of damage down in the valley. These sort of events amaze me by just how much bigger everything in China is compared to little ole NZ.

Meeting Para athletes, coaches, officials and administrators from around the world was illustrative how large the Paralympic Movement is and how many passionate and committed people there are making sport happen at all levels in their countries.

It was such an honour to represent NZ and be part of the NZ delegation who are highly regarded and respected. Until next time, I’ll always remember Shuey Rhon Rhon as the face of the Games.

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