Australia has only delivered one medal to the Beijing Winter Paralympics. This is the lowest haul in 34-years after a buildup smashed by COVID-19 restrictions.
Australia delivered the worst Winter Paralympics medal haul in 1988. Still, the focus is on ensuring that the effects of two COVID-19-ravaged years, which contributed to the tough Beijing campaign, don’t continue.
Ben Tudhope’s bronze para snowboard medal was Australia’s only trip on the podium in Beijing. This is the worst record since Innsbruck 34-years ago.
Snow Australia chief executive Michael Kennedy and Chef de Mission Kate McLoughlin defended the total. They said that the results had to be viewed in the context of COVID and its impact on the team compared to overseas competitors.
Except for Tudhope, most of Australia’s team members could not travel abroad to compete until December. Border closures and lockdowns also shut down local ski resorts.
McLoughlin stated that “we have to be pragmatic about it because time on the snow is essential to build your skills, and our team simply hasn’t had enough snow.”
“Success comes in many different forms. Looking at the achievements of our team, this Games is a great way to feel proud, especially considering all the challenges they have faced.
Snow Australia is responsible for the performance component of the Winter Paralympics Team. Kennedy stated that the medal tally exceeded his expectations.
Kennedy stated that “our para-athletes were simply not able to travel.”
“When you add that to two domestic seasons in which we had total border closures, and resorts shut down for long periods, it means our athletes have lost a lot of time on the snow.”
“We have done everything possible, and the athletes have made every effort to make up the time lost on the snow.
“But when you compete against European nations and northern hemisphere countries that had far fewer restrictions and lockdowns than us, it was just not fair.”
Kennedy noted that para-snowboarder Shaun Pollard was prevented from competing and training because he couldn’t access Western Australia. However, Kennedy highlighted “green shoots” in the current team.
Josh Hanlon, a sixth-place finisher in slalom and 11th in giant slalom), and Rae Anderson, a seventh-place finisher in slalom and 10th respectively in giant slalom), showed glimpses of potential for Milano Cortina 2026. Tudhope, however, is only 22.
Kennedy hopes that projects such as the National Training Centre at Jindabyne will help offset these issues and prevent a knock-on effect for 2026.
Kennedy stated, “We have a huge challenge because we lost time in recruiting talent.”
“But we’re doing all we can to recruit talent, talent-transfer, and try to fast-track or upskill athletes to get them to Cortina.
It isn’t easy to lose two years’ worth of development while the rest of the world continues to train and compete.
“There is no doubt that we have a track record in being able to create athletes of medal caliber, both Olympic- and Paralympic. We’ll keep going.” There is no reason to stop.”