Winter Paralympics 2022: Inspirational stories from visually impaired athletes

Neil Simpson and Andrew Simpson downhill skiing


It was a fantastic Winter Paralympics in China with some unbelievable team and individual performances.

Here we run down some of the most inspirational stories from the games featuring visually impaired competitors.

The Ukraine Skiing team dominate the winter Paralympics

Despite turmoil back home the Ukrainian team captured an incredible 29 medals at the games. They finished second in the overall medals table behind China.

Visually impaired athletes featured heavily among the medalists.

Stand out among them was Dmytro Suiarko who won a bronze medal in the men’s vision impaired middle-distance biathlon. The victory came just hours after receiving the news that his home in Chernihiv, about 90 miles north of Kyiv, had been destroyed by Russian shelling.

Another inspiring moment came on the opening day of the games when Ukraine swept the podium in the Men’s 6k Biathlon visually impaired sprint. Gold went to Vitaliy Lukyanenko, Silver to Oleksandr Kazik, and Bronze Dmytro Suiarko.

Other visually impaired medalists included:

  • Oleksandr Kazik – Gold in Men’s 12.5km Individual – Visually Impaired
  • Oksana Shyshkova – Gold in Women’s 12.5km Individual – Visually Impaired
  • Oleksandr Kazik – Silver in Men 6km Individual – Visually Impaired
  • Anatolii Kovalevskyi – Silver in Men 10km Middle – Visually Impaired
  • Oksana Shyshkova – Silver in Women’s 10km Middle – Visually Impaired
  • Vitaliy Lukyanenko – Silver in Men’s 12.5km Individual – Visually Impaired


Brian McKeever – Winter Paralympics Legend

Canadian Skier Brian McKeever, took three golds at the Games. This took his career tally to 16 golds and 20 medals overall.

This was the 42-year-olds sixth Games and incredibly he now hasn’t lost an individual race at a Paralympics since 2006! His first gold came way back in 2002 at Salt Lake City. His 16th gold puts him equal with Germany’s para alpine skier Gerd Schönfelder as the person with the most Paralympics golds.


A family celebration – The Aigner siblings

Four visually impaired siblings won medals in the Alpine skiing for Austria.

Johannes Aigner, 16, earned a medal in all five skiing events, winning gold in both the Slalom and Downhill.

His sisters Veronika and Barbara won four medals in the women’s events.

This included a gold and silver in the women’s slalom race. Veronika (with sister Elisabath as guide) landed their second gold medal of the Games, while Barbara scored the silver for her second medal.



Great British Skiers

Neil Simpson claimed Britain’s first gold medal of the 2022 Beijing Winter Paralympics with victory in the men’s Super-G vision impaired class.

But it was the manner and approach that won additional plaudits.

As Guardian columnist and former Paralympic athlete, Ade Adepitan said, “Normally, when you watch visually impaired skiers there’s a connection: the guide goes off and the skier follows straight behind.

But that’s not how Neil and his brother Andrew do it. When the bell goes Andrew just flies out. His approach is: I’m going to ski down this hill as fast as I can and you’ve got to catch me. Their performance was absolutely brilliant to watch and such a staggering achievement.”

It is also the first time any British male athlete has won a gold medal on snow at a Winter Paralympics.

Menna Fitzpatrick overcame a number of setbacks to win a silver for ParalympicsGB in the Women’s Super-G Vision Impaired class.

Fitzpatrick had a tough run in to the games. She broke a leg in in 2020, and then lost her regular guide Katie Guest who could not attend Beijing due to a positive Covid test before her departure from the UK. The silver is the fifth medal of her career, making her Britain’s most successful Winter Paralympian.

“To be here at all is a great achievement,” she said after the race. “But to stand up on that podium is absolutely amazing. I’m so proud of what we’ve achieved together.”


Riley the Guide dog

Cross-country skier, Carina Edlinger, put her success down to her guide dog Riley.

The competitor won two medals at the games including one gold, but it might not have happened without the support of her guide dog Riley.

Edlinger had to pull out of several races early in the Games because of pain and mobility issues, and Riley was there to comfort her afterward. The 23-year-old Austrian finally overcame those issues and triumphed with a gold medal in the cross-country sprint. During the medal ceremony, Riley joined her on the podium and quickly became a star.

A few days later, Edlinger was back on the podium for another cross-country event, and this time Riley got a medal of his own. The 23-year-old won the gold medal in the women’s vision impaired sprint with skiing guide Lorenz Josef Lampl, finishing more than six seconds in front of Oksana Shyshkova and her guide Andriy Marchenko from Ukraine.

Speaking to the Austrian Paralympic Committee (ÖPC) website, Edlinger said,

“I would definitely not have flown without him, that was my criterion. I certainly didn’t make it easy for the ÖPC because they had to set a lot in motion [to get the dog to China], but it paid off.

Every volunteer has now taken a selfie with him, it seems to me he’s more famous than the Chinese President. Everyone waves to him and shouts after him, that’s nice.

I’m almost used to being number two. He just belongs to me and is much more than just a guide dog.”




Special mention for Marek Kubacka

Marek Kubacka was the only B1 athlete in the Men’s Para Alpine Visually Impaired field.

In order for him to compete, his guide, Maria Zatovicova, carries a loudspeaker with her. This emits a constant sound and her instructions so that he can judge how to follow the course.

As a B1 classified athlete, to compensate for the slower speed at which he skis, his clock runs at 60.53% of real time.

He finished finished fourth in his event, missing out on the podium was just 1.55sec.


Check out our rundown of inspirational moments from the 2021 Tokyo summer games: Blind athletes at the Tokyo Paralympics: Five outstanding achievements


Goalfix Sports is a specialist supplier of adaptive sports equipment. We supply a range of IBSA approved equipment for blind sports for blind soccer and goalball, including to the Tokyo Paralympic games.