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Golden day for Canada at Winter Paralympics

A hat-trick of gold medals propelled Canada from sixth to third in the Beijing Winter Paralympics medals table on Monday, 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.

At the snowboarding 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 didn’t think he would snowboard again — the road to Paralympic glory physically and emotionally challenging.

“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 Turner told AFP.

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

The men’s UL snowboarding cross final was an all-China affair with Ji Lijia, 19, coming out trumps 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, seven of them gold — an impressive feat considering their first Winter Paralympics medal only arrived in 2018. On that occasion it was a gold in wheelchair curling.

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 gold on day one, faced an arduous journey last week to make it to Beijing for the Paralympics 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 para-snowboarding 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, 35, claimed gold and Garrett Geros from the USA won silver in that event.

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