7 moments that helped define the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics
From a living legend to a lucky loonie, here's what stood out
The Beijing Paralympics began amid a cloud of controversy.
As Russia invaded Ukraine, the International Paralympic Committee chose not to ban Russian and allied Belarusian athletes from the 2022 Games. The decision caused animosity in the Athletes' Village, and led to multiple teams threatening withdrawals from events.
Within 24 hours, the decision was reversed. Russian and Belarusian athletes would not compete at the 2022 Paralympics.
Canada finished with 25 medals, its second-highest total ever only behind the 28 won at PyeongChang 2018.
Here are seven mostly-Canadian moments from the Beijing Games that stand out:
Ukraine's podium sweep(s)
Amid terror in their homeland and between calls to family caught in war, Ukrainian athletes produced the country's most successful Winter Paralympics ever.
Ukraine finished with both the second-most medals (29) and second-most gold medals (11) in China, only trailing the hosts in both.
It was a fast start too. Ukraine reached seven podiums on Day 1 of the Games, including a sweep of the men's visually impaired biathlon sprint. It would go on to collect all three medals in two more events as well.
Meanwhile, American star Oksana Masters, who was born in Ukraine, said she would be donating all the prize money from her two golds and one silver to aid physically impaired children in her homeland.
Ukrainian athletes embodied resilience in Beijing.
WATCH | Russian, Belarusian athletes banned from 2022 Paralympics:
McKeever gets the last laugh
The role of guides for visually impaired athletes, among other things, is to set the pace. Typically, then, guides are faster than the athletes themselves.
But after Canadian cross-country legend Brian McKeever crossed the finish line for the 16th and final individual gold medal of his Paralympic career, guide Graham Nishikawa collapsed to the ground in exhaustion.
McKeever, of Canmore, Alta., ended his Paralympic career in style. Set to retire after six Games and 20 medals, the Canadian won all three of his individual races in Beijing. It's the fourth consecutive time he's done that.
And while he was challenged in the sprint event, it wasn't particularly close in either the middle or long distance races.
An iconic conclusion to the career of a living legend.
WATCH | McKeever golden in final individual race:
Skiers fight through adversity
Canadian alpine skiers Mollie Jepsen and Alana Ramsay earned two medals, each, in Beijing.
And both had to battle adversity en route to success.
Jepsen, who won Canada's first medal of the Games with gold in the women's standing downhill, was diagnosed with Crohn's disease just months after PyeongChang 2018, where she captured four medals in her Paralympic debut (one gold, one silver and two bronze).
WATCH | Jepsen wins Canada's 1st gold medal in Beijing:
The 22-year-old of West Vancouver, B.C., would add silver in the standing giant slalom for her second podium appearance of Beijing 2022, which increased her career total to six medals.
Ramsay became Canada's first multi-medallist of Beijing 2022 with bronze in the women's standing super combined and super-G, that added to her pair of Paralympic bronze medals in the same events four years ago.
Ramsay was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following a crash in January 2019 and said she didn't feel comfortable on skis again until last month.
Now, she departs Beijing with two podium finishes.
WATCH | Alana Ramsay captures super-G bronze medal:
Canada's 1st snowboarding medals
Canada had not won a single medal in Para snowboarding since its introduction to the Games at Sochi 2014.
That all changed by the third day of competition in Beijing.
Lisa DeJong, of Biggar, Sask., claimed Canada's first-ever medal with a silver in the women's snowboard cross.
WATCH | DeJong secures Canada's 1st Para snowboard medal:
Feeling as though she did what she came to do by making the final, the 32-year-old simply etched her name in history.
The Campbell River, B.C., native pumped his fists as he approached the finish line, then proceeding to clapping his hands and his board as he yelled, "Let's go," full of emotion.
It had all come together for the 33-year-old who burst onto the scene just as quickly as he was crowned Paralympic champion.
WATCH | Tyler Tuner soars to Canada's 1st snowboard gold:
Wilkie, Hudak share the podium
A tight bond between two teammates is one thing, but to share an accomplishment on the biggest stage of their athletic careers is another.
Wilkie finished comfortably in the gold-medal position. Once Hudak crossed the line (to win bronze), Wilkie ran over to Hudak to give her a hug before the two exchanged words of praise.
In their post-event interviews, the two couldn't help but express just how much it meant to share the podium with each other.
A heartfelt moment that reminds audiences what makes the Games as great as they are.
WATCH | Wilkie tops podium, Hudak joins with bronze:
Lucky loonie strikes again
Canada's wheelchair curling team had not missed the podium at a Paralympic Games since the sport was added to the program.
With gold in Turin 2006, Vancouver 2010, and Sochi 2014, before claiming bronze at PyeongChang 2018, the Canadian squad needed to avenge an earlier 9-8 round-robin defeat to Slovakia in the bronze medal game to keep the consecutive streak alive.
Lucky Loonie strikes again. <br><br>Mark Ideson put this loonie somewhere in the Sheet B ice during the first practice. And he just won bronze on Sheet B. <br><br>It’s the third time he’s done this. Gold in 2014. Bronze in 2018. Bronze in 2022. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/cbccurl?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#cbccurl</a> <a href="https://t.co/4U771dqDnF">pic.twitter.com/4U771dqDnF</a>—@Devin_Heroux
Led by Ideson, third Ina Forrest, second Dennis Thiessen, fourth Jon Thurston and alternate Collinda Joseph, Canada would defeat Slovakia 8-3 to extend the country's Paralympic podium appearance record.
Following the Canadian victory, Ideson — the now three-time Paralympic medallist (1 gold, 2 bronze), made sure to re-collect Canada's one-dollar coin, which marked the third time the tradition has worked for the 45-year-old.
Para ice hockey team repeats silver
Para ice hockey delivered Canada's last medal in Beijing.
Silver wasn't the colour all 17 players would have wanted, but it did make for the Canadians' third medal in a row at the Games. Keep in mind, Canada didn't feature on the podium at all in the sport at Sochi 2014.
There's also no shame in losing to the American squad, who has established a dynasty in the sport by winning the last four Paralympic tournaments.
WATCH | Canada settles for repeat silver in Para ice hockey:
At PyeongChang 2018, the U.S. tied the final at 1-1 with 38 seconds remaining in regulation before scoring in overtime to send Canada to silver.
It wasn't that close in Beijing. Two hard 5-0 defeats to the longtime rivals, one in preliminary round action and the other in the final, surely won't sit easy with the players.
Once the dust has settled, however, it should only add further fuel to the fire along the way to Milano Cortina 2026.
When the puck finally drops four years from now, the hunger will undoubtedly be stronger than ever to reclaim the top of the podium for the first time since Turin 2006.