Winter Paralympics: Treble golden day for Canada at Beijing Games but China still top after seventh title

Brian McKeever of Canada celebrating with his guide Russell Kennedy after winning a para cross-country skiing gold at the Beijing Winter Paralympics on March 7, 2022. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - A hat-trick of gold medals propelled Canada from sixth to third in the Beijing Winter Paralympics' medal table on Monday (March 7), as hosts China extended their streak of success.

On the third day of action in the Chinese capital, Natalie Wilkie powered home in the standing long distance cross-country skiing event, while fellow Canadian Brian McKeever, 42, claimed victory in the visually impaired category.

It was McKeever's 14th Paralympic gold medal at his sixth Games appearance.

"I'm still hungry," he told reporters.

Beijing will be his last Games but he still has sprint and the middle races to go - which means a chance to equal the 16-gold haul of German former para-alpine skier Gerd Schonfelder, the most decorated men's Paralympian.

At the snowboard cross, first-time Paralympian and double-amputee Tyler Turner made his mark with gold for Canada in the LL1 category.

Four years ago, after a skydiving crash, he did not think he would snowboard again.

"I like to tell people it's not pretty, it's not sexy - it looks like I lost my legs yesterday and woke up tomorrow on the top of the podium, but that's not how it goes," the 33-year-old told AFP.

Fellow Canadian boarder Lisa Dejong netted a silver in the women's event, which was won by 47-year-old Cecile Hernandez of France, with Brenna Huckaby taking bronze in a race that had plenty of thrills and spills.

The men's UL snowboard cross final was an all-China affair with Ji Lijia, 19, prevailing over Wang Pengyao and Zhu Yonggang to win his country's seventh gold.

"Four Chinese athletes in the big final. We were really happy. Our goal is to bring glory to our home country," Ji told reporters.

Top-of-the-table China's medal haul is now up to 25 with eight silvers and 10 bronzes.

It's an impressive feat considering their first Winter Paralympics medal - a gold in wheelchair curling - only arrived in 2018.

Ukraine win gold again

Cross-country skier Oksana Shyshkova added another gold medal to Ukraine's tally, bringing their total number of golds to four.

The team, which netted seven biathlon medals including three golds on day one, faced an arduous journey last week to make it to Beijing after the Russian invasion of their homeland.

The United Nations estimates 1.5 million Ukrainians have fled the country as part of the fastest growing refugee crisis since World War II.

"With the situation in Ukraine, it is very difficult to focus on the race and to be emotionally stable, but we know that we have to do everything we can," Shyshkova told reporters.

"Our battle is here and we should prove that Ukraine is a strong country."

Australia's top medal hope Ben Tudhope, who has cerebral palsy, pocketed bronze in the snowboard cross LL2 category at his third Paralympics.

"I still can't wrap my head around it. It doesn't feel real yet," the 22-year-old told reporters.

"Flying Finn" Matti Suur-Hamari claimed gold, with the United States' Garrett Geros taking silver.

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