Li Hongguan of China vies with Andrea Macri (L) of Italy during the para ice hockey preliminary round Group B match between China and Italy of the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games at National Indoor Stadium in Beijing, March 8, 2022. (Xinhua/Lan Hongguang)
Italian Para ice hockey athlete Andrea Macri enjoys a colorful life.
BEIJING, March 10 (Xinhua) -- For Italian Para ice hockey athlete Andrea Macri, ice hockey is not enough to sum up his life experience.
Before coming to the Beijing Paralympic Winter Games, Andrea took a series of exams to qualify as a sommelier.
"I have a big passion for wine tasting. I really enjoy it when I have free time. Not to get drunk, but to enjoy wine and travel to new wineries on my days off. I will think about whether to turn it into a job or keep it as a passion," said Macri.
The Italian has a wide range of other hobbies, such as gardening and wheelchair tennis, some of which he took up after the accident that changed his life.
At the age of 17, his legs and spine were crushed by iron pipes after a ceiling collapsed, rendering him a paraplegic.
After the accident, Macri became withdrawn and lost direction in his life. However, with the support of his family, he began to take part in sports rehabilitation programs.
Stepping out of the darkness, Macri took up wheelchair fencing and Para ice hockey, winning silver in the team foil at the 2011 Fencing World Championships in Catania, Italy, and qualifying for the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.
"I was enjoying team sports more than individual sports, so I prioritized Para ice hockey," Macri said.
Now Para ice hockey has become one of the biggest components of his life. "After my accident, I didn't expect and I didn't know how much passion I have inside of me for this sport."
The teamwork in Para ice hockey helped him return to an optimistic state of mind. The Italian has traveled the world to participate in international competitions and meet people from different countries.
In 2017, Macri was named as an athlete representative on the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) Para ice hockey sport technical committee. He has also served as a member of the Athletes' Commission at the Italian Paralympic Committee.
"I want Para hockey to become a sport that everyone loves to watch, and I want to improve the global visibility of these sports," Macri said.
The Italian added that sport can give strength to people with impairments and make their lives happier, drawing on his own experience of bringing his life back on a positive track.
Finishing fourth at the 2018 Paralympic Winter Games in Pyeongchang, Macri and his teammates couldn't improve on that showing at Beijing 2022.
After losing the qualifying finals on Wednesday at the National Indoor Stadium, Macri said he felt sad, but cheered up quickly. "It's something normal in our sport. I just hope that in the next four years we will be able to do something more."
With his Italian team now aging, Macri is looking for new ways to strengthen the team and start sourcing younger newcomers.
"We will have a Paralympic Winter Games in our country in four years. So I really hope that they will do something because, at the moment, we are 17 players here, but in my country, there are no more than 30 players. So I think that the federation has to do something for us," said the 30-year-old.
On March 11, Macri will embrace the competition to fight for fifth place at Beijing 2022. "We didn't come here to be sixth. Things didn't go as we wanted, but we will take other energies, we will train and we will prepare. You will see that energy on the ice in the last match, for sure." ■