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A 'super cool' love story

By CUI JIA in Zhangjiakou, Hebei province | China Daily | Updated: 2022-03-10 09:20
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Dutch pair chasing their Paralympic dreams together at Beijing Winter Games

Dutch snowboard couple Lisa Bunschoten (left) and Chris Vos are competing at their third Winter Paralympics together in Beijing. WEI XIAOHAO/CHINA DAILY

Dutch snowboard couple Chris Vos and Lisa Bunschoten are chasing their dreams hand in hand at the Beijing Winter Paralympics.

The pair admit life on the slopes together can be stressful at times, but the ups outweigh the downs as they share their "amazing" journey together.

"We cheer for each other. We've been through all the highs and the lows together. It's been an amazing journey and I think we are chasing our dreams here," said Vos, who finished fourth in the men's para snowboard cross SB-LL1 big final on Monday.

Earlier that day, Bunschoten crashed out of the women's para snowboard cross SB-LL2 big final, which proved tough to watch for Vos.

"Lisa was competing ahead of me, so I could see her start. I saw she had a really good start, but then I saw our coach turned away a little bit, so I knew something happened," Vos said.

"It just makes me really nervous. I know I need to focus but I also want to see what's going on. Competing together can be very stressful sometimes. But it's super cool."

Now the pair are raring to show people what they can do in the banked slalom event on Friday. Vos and Bunschoten's first Winter Paralympics together was the 2014 Games in Sochi. They were both silver medalists in snowboard cross at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, where Bunschoten also bagged a bronze in the banked slalom.

Vos says it has been fun to witness para snowboarding make major strides over the years.

"At Sochi 2014, we were competing in para snowboard cross in time trials, and started one by one. At Pyeongchang 2018, athletes could compete in groups of two. Now it's with four people on the course-the same format used in the Winter Olympics. So I believe the level is really high now," he said.

Bunschoten, 26, and Vos, 23, have been a couple for more than seven years.

"It wasn't love at first sight-he was really annoying. But our feelings toward each other started to grow," Bunschoten said.

Vos is equally frank about their relationship.

"At the beginning, I was a little kid who liked to bully her a little bit. I started to look at her differently when my mother told me that she was a nice lady. Now it's just super cool to be together to share our passion together," he said.

They admit that any attempt to get romantic on the slopes is usually a bad idea.

"Once we tried to kiss each other when riding the T-bar on a mountain in Switzerland and then we both fell off and hit a wall," Vos said with a giggle. "So we don't do that on the T-bar anymore!"

Vos said people always want to see Bunschoten beat him on the course, which only accentuates his competitive instinct. "When sometimes it happens and she wins, then everybody will talk about that in front of me for three weeks. We find it very amusing," he said.

The pair also got to share flagbearing duties for the Netherlands at last Friday's opening ceremony.

"To do it together with Chris was extra special," Bunschoten said. "It's hard for everybody not being able to have family here. My parents and my brother went to Sochi and Pyeongchang, so I would love to have them here. It would be perfect, but I think I can (feel) very lucky that I do have Chris here and that we can do this together."

"We can push each other and be there for each other when something is wrong," said Vos.

Born with fibula aplasia, Bunschoten's left leg grew shorter than her right, and at 16 she made the decision to have her foot amputated. Her brother encouraged her to try snowboarding as a teenager.

Doctors didn't expect Vos to ever walk again after he paralyzed his right leg at age 5 in an accident involving a digging machine.

On a family skiing holiday two years after the incident, Vos' father thought he might be able to stand on a snowboard, so he tied a rope around his waist and off they went.

"I hope our story can show people that the possibilities are unlimited. Such a message is much stronger coming from Paralympians than it is from Olympians," Vos said. "I think it's really special that we have the chance to do that and we love to do that."

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