Ukrainian Athletes Make It to Paralympics: 'It's a Miracle'

As war rages on back home, Paralympians converge on Beijing, with Russian athletes banned
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Mar 4, 2022 6:47 AM CST
Updated Mar 4, 2022 8:00 AM CST
Ukrainian Athletes Make It to Paralympics: 'It's a Miracle'
Lee Reaney, a Canadian journalist working for the "Kyiv Post," is seen at a press conference at the Beijing Paralympic Games in Beijing on Thursday.   (Joe Toth/OIS via AP)

The Winter Paralympics open Friday in Beijing, with the Russian athletes sent home and the Ukrainian team escaping a war zone to get to China. "It's a miracle that we have made it to the Paralympics," Ukrainian delegation head Valerii Sushkevych said, per the AP. Russia's invasion of Ukraine, shortly after the Winter Olympics wrapped up in Beijing, is roiling the world, and the world of sports is no exception. Paralympic organizers initially announced that Russians and Belarusians would be allowed to compete in Beijing, but they reversed course one day before the opening and expelled athletes from both countries, citing tensions in the athletes' village. Sushkevych said it took four days for team members in Ukraine to reach Beijing. He said he slept on the floor of a bus because of a back condition during the last two days of the journey through Europe.

"We overcame a lot of barriers on the way," he said. "Many members of our team had to escape while there was bombardment and shells exploding." About 564 athletes, of which 138 are women, are competing in the Paralympics. China has the largest team, with 96 competitors, followed by the United States with 65. The Paralympics includes six sports: Alpine skiing, cross-country skiing, biathlon, hockey, snowboarding, and curling. "Much work still needs to be done to achieve gender parity, but having increased female participation significantly at the Winter Games in the last 20 years shows we are heading in the right direction," International Paralympic Committee President Andrew Parsons said. The Paralympics were set to open at the Bird's Nest stadium; Parsons and Chinese President Xi Jinping were to attend the opening ceremony. The 10-day event closes on March 13.

(More Paralympics stories.)

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