North Korea in focus as biggest Paralympics opens

5 2018 workers for the Pyeong Chang Winter Paralympic Games clear snow at Alpensia Biathlon Centre in PyeongChang Gangwon Province

Snowboarder Joany Badenhorst has flown the flag as Australia's Winter Paralympics team marched on the PyeongChang Games opening ceremony.

Host Russia won a whopping 80 medals at the 2014 Sochi Games with Ukraine coming in a distant second with 25 medals.

The opening ceremony took place on Friday at the city's Olympic stadium.

Andrew Parsons, president of the IPC, said in a statement that North Korea's presence was a pivotal moment for the Paralympic movement and that he hoped that "the focus can now be on the performances of Para athletes on the field of play, not the politics off it".

The Athletes are racing to capture a spot on the podium in six qualifying sports- alpine skiing, biathlon, cross-country skiing, para ice hockey, snowboarding and wheelchair curling.

She has competed on every Winter Paralympic team since 2006 along with sled hockey player Steve Cash and Alpine skiing teammate Tyler Walker. They were joined by three other flames - a flame from Stoke Mandeville in Britain, the birthplace of the Paralympics; a flame representing the 1988 Seoul Paralympics; and a digitally created flame - on Saturday in Seoul to form one united flame.

"I get a lot of media coverage because I'm at both the Summer and Winter Paralympics, so hopefully that gets me recognized more and gives people a reason to come watch the Tokyo Games".

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Wheelchair Curling appeared for the first time during the 2006 Torino Winter Games.

Despite the rift, South Korea's Yonhap News Agency reported that the North Koreans were cheered when they entered the arena at the Paralympics opening ceremony on Friday.

But the disagreement is considered a minor sticking point after what has been a swift thaw between the neighbours, starting with North Korea's decision in January to participate in the Olympics.

A record 48 countries are taking part in the Games. South Korea said putting the islands on the flag would violate the International Paralympics Committee's recommendation not to politicize sports events.

Also defying the odds is Japan's ice sledge hockey goaltender Shinobu Fukushima, who makes an astonishing return to the Paralympics for the fourth time, now aged 61.

At the opening ceremony, the world will see another historic moment like viewers saw at the PyeongChang Olympics.

The torchbearers included Lee Yong-ro, the first disabled South Korean to become a sports professor; Kim Yu-na, the former Olympic figure skating champion; and Yun Sung-bin, who won the gold medal in men's skeleton at the PyeongChang Olympics. It was followed by the playing of the South Korean national anthem and hoisting of the country's flag before the traditional Parade of Nations was held.

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