Flag bearers Tyler Carter and Danelle Umstead lead Team USA during the Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 on March 4, 2022 in Beijing.
BEIJING – With the Chinese capital decked out in red-colored lanterns and the Shuey Rhon Rhon mascot draped on banners and buildings galore, the Paralympic Winter Games Beijing 2022 kicked off on Friday evening with a touching and inclusive Opening Ceremony at the famed “Bird’s Nest” National Stadium.
The 67-strong Team USA delegation in Beijing, including two guides for visually impaired athletes, is the second largest delegation in Beijing after the host nation and spans all six Paralympic sports at the Games: alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, snowboard, sled hockey and wheelchair curling.
The U.S. Paralympic Team features 39 returning Paralympians, with Nordic skiing’s Oksana Masters and Aaron Pike competing in their sixth Games and alpine skiing’s Laurie Stephens in her fifth. The U.S. sled hockey team will skate for its record-extending fourth consecutive and fifth overall Paralympic gold, while the U.S. wheelchair curling squad will try to make the Paralympic podium for the first time after finishing fourth at the last world championships.
Competitions at the Games begin on Saturday and run through Sunday March 13.
The Opening Ceremony began with a starry ocean overtaking the base of the stadium and showcasing the history of the 12 previous Paralympic Winter Games before freezing over to read “2022 Beijing China.” A choir of 24 visually impaired university singers sang an acapella version of the Chinese national anthem, “My Motherland and Me,” while the host nation’s flag was raised. Four Shuey Rhon Rhons appeared shortly thereafter, skating along the stage to welcome the parade of athletes with 13 trumpeters belting out a melody behind them to represent the 13th Paralympic Winter Games.
Team USA was led into the Opening Ceremony by flag bearers and alpine skiers Danelle Umstead, a four-time Paralympian, and Tyler Carter, a three-time Paralympian. Carter noted he’s never had as many notifications blowing up his phone as when he was announced as one of the flag bearers earlier in the week.
“It’s so special. I’m shocked. I didn’t see it coming,” said Carter, of Topton, Pennsylvania. “It’s a huge honor to be representing the team and our entire country, and for the whole world to be having a moment and coming together for something positive.”