Adam Kingsmill’s first impression of flying over Beijing, China going to the 2022 Paralympic games, was the beautiful landscape and scenery.
“There is lots of mountains and the landscape, it’s beautiful,” Kingsmill said.
But stepping off the plane and into a city and airport with very strict protocols for COVID, gave him a totally different impression.
“There was no one in the airport and it was enormous, no one was talking, it felt kind of eerie and reminded me of an episode of the Squid Games,” Kingsmill recalled. “Outside the airport, there was about 12 to 15 people to take us to the Olympic Village and they were in full Haz-Mat suits. It was definitely surreal.”
Once inside the Village venue they had been assigned, it was pretty routine, but strict.
The Men’s Paralympic Ice Hockey Team had been in a “bubble” for about 65 days together in Calgary while they trained for the games. Once at the Olympic Village they had more room to move about a little.
There were COVID protocols to follow, testing every day, and pressure, all kinds of pressure.
Pressure for every individual on the team to remain healthy because if one individual got sick, the whole team would be locked down.
There was the pressure of the games, of course. But the team had trained hard and were prepared to play.
For the team, a pressure they had not anticipated was the war in Ukraine, having the Russian athletes in the Village, and knowing they were slated to play them in the tournament.
“Hockey Canada gave their stance and kind of left it up to us as a team because they know that it was a very polarizing subject, polarizing options that we could take, so it was just super weird,” Kingsmill said.
”Guys like myself, these were my first games. I’m young, I’ve got the potential to go to other games, when there’s other guys that have been playing for years and years and this is going to be their last game. So do they want to sacrifice that? (A) medal for their moral stance? All of our veterans on our team remained strong with our morals and backed Canada’s morals and decided we’re not going to play Russia and we’ll see what happens.
“So that was pretty cool to see everyone coming together as a whole, standing up for something that was definitely wrong (the war on Ukraine), that is wrong, still going on. So that was a very stressful time, a lot of meetings, a lot of sleepless nights and it was hard to kind of re-adjust your focus to kind of hop back on the ice after having these meetings.”
Before the opening ceremonies, the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) decided to send the Russian athletes home. For the teams involved, including Canada, they felt the IPC made the right decision.
Because of the decision, the athletes and teams were able to go on and enjoy the opening ceremonies and the rest of the games and compete without further disruption, although it was an experience Kingsmill said they will all carry with them.
The Para Ice Hockey Team went on in the tournament to win a Silver medal, for the second consecutive games. Kingsmill is proud of that success, although it is clear it has sparked a fire in him for future tournaments, and a medal a little more in the gold hue.
For now, Kingsmill is working and, come fall, will be back training in Calgary. He already has tournaments on the calendar.
The history he was part of has left Kingsmill in awe of the experience, which he is still digesting, thinking about, and transitioning from.
“Now I’m looking forward,” Kingsmill said. “I’m thankful for all the support, from my family and this community, and all of the coaches, everyone it took to get us to Beijing, and for that experience. I plan on taking all of those experiences forward, and to continue down this path to see where it takes me.”