Winter Paralympics: Opening Ceremony

Friday:Winter Paralympics: Opening Ceremony; (Channel 4, 11.30am)

By Claire Cartmill
Thursday, 3rd March 2022, 5:00 pm

There’s no getting away from it, the recent Winter Olympics were disappointing for Team GB.

Despite high hopes of it being a record-breaking Games and some encouraging performances, unfortunately the medals didn’t materialise in Beijing.

But all hope is not lost, and our Paralympians will be looking to restore some pride in British winter sports when they take to the ice and snow in and around the Chinese capital.

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Great Britain has won 34 medals at the Winter Paralympics – two gold, 13 silver and 19 bronze – since the Games first took place in 1976 in Ornskoldsvik, Sweden, and we are sending a small but select team of athletes and guides to China this time around.

The 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in PyeongChang, South Korea, was officially the most successful in Britain’s history, as they secured a superb seven medals.

Visually impaired alpine skier Menna Fitzpatrick and her guide Jen Kehoe won gold in Slalom, silver in both the Giant Slalom and Super Combine and bronze in the Super-G, making them Britain’s most successful Winter Paralympians.

Meanwhile, Millie Knight and her guide Brett Wild added two silvers, in the Downhill and Super-G, before taking the bronze in the Slalom.

Once again, there will be high hopes for this alpine skiing quartet to make it onto the podium in China, and hopefully there will be a few other British athletes from other sports joining them.

Wheelchair curling made its first Paralympic appearance in 2006 when GB won silver, losing in the final to Canada.

There was also a dramatic bronze in Sochi in 2014, but in Pyeongchang, the team finished seventh out of 12 teams after the round-robin phase, missing out on the play-offs.

With a team made up of Hugh Nibloe, Gregor Ewan, David Melrose, Meggan Dawson-Farrell and Gary Smith heading to Beijing, will they be in contention?

Over the next nine days, Channel 4 will host more than 80 hours of around-the-clock Paralympics coverage.

And in what the broadcaster says is a “global first” for a world-class sporting event, their line-up will be made up of entirely disabled presenters and pundits.

It all begins this afternoon with the opening ceremony, as the Games is officially opened by president of China Xi Jinping at the Bird’s Nest aka the Beijing National Stadium.

The director of the show is Zhang Yimou, who also oversaw the opening and closing ceremonies of the Winter Olympics.

Commentator Rob Walker is joined by Paralympic sitskier and three-time world champion water-skier Sean Rose and Channel 4 News’ Krishnan Guru-Murthy to take us through proceedings and give us a few tasters of what we can expect over the next week and a half.

From tomorrow, Paralympics Today, a daily highlights show will be fronted by wheelchair basketballer Ade Adepitan, with quadriplegic former professional rugby player Ed Jackson and Paralympic champion triathlete and Strictly star Lauren Steadman hosting the Paralympics Breakfast show.

Channel 4’s line-up also includes Paralympic swimmer Ellie Robinson, who will be joined by double amputee racing driver Billy Monger to be onscreen reporters, while Rose will also be a pundit.

The overnight coverage will be led by Arthur Williams who did a sterling job presenting the Tokyo 2020 shows.

So sit back, and watch some of the world’s leading disabled athletes going for glory – who knows, there might even be something for Britain fans to cheer about.

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