Canada’s first gold medallist at the Beijing Paralympic Games, silver medallist over the weekend, West Vancouver’s Mollie Jepsen can now add the honour of closing ceremony flag bearer to her growing list of accolades.
On Sunday (March 13) night, Jepsen lead the Canadian Paralympic team into the Beijing National Stadium, capping off an incredible two-week effort by the North Shore local.
"It's an honour of a lifetime to be able to be the Closing Ceremony flag bearer at these Games," Jepsen said before the ceremony. "Over the last four years things have been really challenging and coming into these Games I was unsure of where I would stand and how it would go. I was able to stand on the podium just like in 2018 but to be able to represent all of the athletes who have done so amazing here and competed their hearts out at the Games feels amazing, and it's an honour I will cherish for the rest of my life."
Four years ago, Jepsen made her Paralympic debut at 18, winning four medals – one gold, one silver, and two bronze. Shortly after the games, however, she was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and missed the entire 2018-19 season as she was adjusting to life with the new illness.
"Coming into these Games compared to 2018 was similar but different in a lot of ways. I had a lot of struggles right after the 2018 Games, being diagnosed with Crohn's about six months after the Games and taking a whole season off to deal with that and learn how to manage my new chronic illness. And then I returned to the circuit and COVID happened, so it's been a very difficult and turbulent four years to say the least,” she said.
"This last season, the 2021-22 season starting in December when we got back on the circuit, has been really amazing and I put all those struggles behind me and was lucky enough to be back in Europe and racing and competing with the team. I'm just really happy to be back at the Games and performing the way I was hoping I would perform."
On Friday (March 11), Jepsen won silver in the women’s giant slalom event in a time of two minutes and 0.95 seconds, marking her sixth Paralympic medal. China's Zhang Mengqiu won gold in the event, earning her nation's first-ever para-alpine skiing gold. Germany's Andrea Rothfuss won bronze.
Canada's chef de mission, Josh Dueck, said Jepsen is a "fantastic example of perseverance, resiliency, and the power of the human spirit.”
"She has overcome so many challenges over the past four years and to be here in Beijing, racing so well and laying it down for two medals is an amazing accomplishment," Dueck said. "She is an incredible and passionate leader who loves her sport so much."
The Canadian team finished the two-week event with 25 medals, the second highest in team history after winning 28 in Pyeongchang. Canada ended third overall in the medal tally, behind China and Ukraine.
- With files from the Canadian Press