At last - King's Lynn Paralympian gets to compete in Games after Covid dramas
Lynn Nordic skier Steve Arnold fought back the tears as he finally banished his Covid nightmare to make a long-awaited Paralympic debut.
Arnold had been embroiled in a week of Covid chaos after returning a positive test in the UK that initially delayed his flight to Beijing.
He eventually tested negative to fly on Tuesday – missing his first events – before another positive upon arrival in China threw his participation into further doubt.
Arnold eventually returned the negative he needed to take to the Nordic start line before finishing 29th on debut in Saturday’s 10km cross-country skiing event.
And the 42-year-old, who also competed in the 4x2.5km relay with his team on Sunday, said: “It’s an amazing feeling and I’ve got so many emotions at the minute.
“After missing out on the first few races, it’s nice to get out and do a race - I feel proud and I hope I’ve done all my friends and family proud.
“I did what I needed to do - I’m not happy with the result but it’s more about coming out here, competing at a Paralympic Games and achieving what I’ve been striving to do for the last five years.
“It was definitely all worth it, I can’t thank my friends and family enough for the last 48 hours keeping me positive, I’m glad it’s done and I’m now a Paralympian, which is what I’ve been trying to do for the last five years.
“We’ve been doing this for years and to be out here as a full squad achieving what we wanted to achieve, racing at the Paralympic Games, is a great feeling.”
Arnold is a former Army sergeant who first turned to para sport after suffering an accident in Afghanistan in April 2011.
He initially trained as a para cyclist before transitioning to Nordic skiing – consisting of cross-country and biathlon – before PyeongChang 2018.
Arnold narrowly missed out on a place in the team for Korea – Scott Meenagh travelled as ParalympicsGB’s only Nordic skier – but secured his place in Beijing after a top ten finish at January’s World Championships.
Last week’s Covid carnage meant his attendance was on a knife-edge but after switching between positive and negative tests up until Friday, Arnold was eventually declared negative to compete in his final two races over the weekend.
Arnold, Meenagh, Steve Thomas and Callum Deboys finished 12th in Sunday’s biathlon and the Norfolk star, who attended the Closing Ceremony at Beijing’s iconic Bird’s Nest last night, added: "Today was about having a bit of fun. It's still a race but this group's been together for four years and it was great just to ski with all four of us.
“We've had some tough times over the last four years - we didn't know if all of us would make it so it's nice to end the Paralympic Games with all four of us who started this journey in 2018.
“We all watched Scott ski in 2018 and to be here and have four of ski is a great way to end the Games.”
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