The closing ceremony of the Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing was a special event for many athletes. But especially for 19-year-old Briton Neil Simpson, who was able to carry the flag of his homeland with his brother. Simpson secured the only gold medal at the Games, and also achieved a bronze.
The Games were the first for 19-year-old Neil Simpson. The Scotsman won Team GB`s only gold medal in the Super G. He secured his second medal in the combined event, gleaming bronze.
As a visually impaired athlete, you have a guide to help you find your way. For Simpson, that guide is his brother Andrew.
“For me, it definitely helps having Andrew with me. You are able to be very clear and concise in what you want, even direct and blunt sometimes, so you can get feedback across a lot easier,” said the Scot.
He trusts his brother completely and at the Paralympics, the two enjoyed their first significant success together.
“We grew up together, so we know what each other is thinking anyway. It’s amazing to win with my brother.”
At the Winter Olympics a few weeks earlier, the British were unable to meet the expectations of 3-7 medals, although they still ended up with two medals in curling. At the Paralympics, it was a different story; they met the target, even if they fell just short of the seven medals they won in 2018, winning six.
As in Pyeongchang, Para Alpine Skiing was the best sport for the British again this year. This saw one gold medal, one silver medal, and three bronze medals for the skiers.
Menna Fitzpatrick is the most successful athlete at the Winter Paralympics, winning four medals in 2018. This year, she won two more medals despite having to make a last-minute change. Her guide Katie Guest was ill with covid and dropped out. Instead, Fitzpatrick had to make do with her replacement guide Gary Smith.
The two of them took every chance to train to be perfectly attuned to each other. “Straight after we won the silver, we were back out on the slopes training slalom. It’s been a little while since we’ve been on slalom, so we wanted to get the good feelings and do a few turns”, Fitzpatrick said.
Millie Knight, 23, secured a bronze medal in the Women`s Downhill Vision Impaired category. She won silver in that category in Pyeongchang.
But the British were not only successful on skis. Ollie Hill secured bronze and the first Paralympic snowboard medal for Team GB.
The 32-year-old is a newcomer to Para sport. In 2018 he was involved in a car accident, and afterwards, his right leg had to be amputated below the knee. He won the bronze medal at his first Paralympic Games four years later, even though he would have liked to have had more.
The Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing are over, and the British team can be satisfied with the result, because it’s not just the medals that tell you whether a team has been successful. Team GB was more competitive in more sports than ever before, which is also a success.
The Games were challenging due to the tense political situation and the strict Coronavirus measures. But the athletes gave their all and fought like 19-year-old Neil Simpson, who carried the British flag at the closing ceremony and will undoubtedly have fond memories of his first Paralympic Games.