a wild card for the first time. I participated in just one event and did not even make it into the final. I only got ninth place,” Xu said. “At that time, I had no idea what the Olympics was, never mind the Paralympics. But I gained good experience and learned a lot about the world.”
This time, in Rio, Xu not only did what he is best at— the 50-meter butterfly and freestyle— but also pushed his boundaries and tried a 200meter medley. He won fourth place in that event, and fainted afterward fromoverexhaustion.
He Dongmei, Xu’s mother, noted that Sept 26 is her son’s 25th birthday.
“I just want to see him back in good shape. I hope no one comes to bother him. He needs a good rest,” she said.
Xu already feels rested in many respects.
“The sport has given athletes likeme a lot of spiritual strength,” he said. “It makes us more open, happier, more positive and able to blend into normal life. Friends treat us well, never differently. Sport provides a good environment for us to grow up.”
Zhang Haidi, president of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, who led the Chinese delegation at the Rio Paralympics, said that there are more than 85 million people with disabilities like Xu in China who are tied to more than 200 million family members.
“Those who can earn medals at the Paralympics are still a small group, compared with the majority who have difficulties,” Zhang said. “The Paralympic Games bring hope to people with disabilities. It tells them: ‘I can. I absolutely can. Even if I fail today, I will eventually make it after training and working hard.’”
In addition to swimming, Xu has started a new life at college, with a plan.
“I am a fairly old freshman, now studying at Beijing Sport University. After graduation, withmy nearly two decades of sports experience, I hope to train more athletes, both with and without disabilities,” he said.
“We all want to take part in more social activities in college. It attracts us greatly. Some of my massage therapists are also alumni, and they told me many interesting things at school.
“As for now, I don’t have time for that, but I will definitely have a good chat with them about this when I’mback.”
China’s “flying fish without wings”, Xu Qing, 24, a man with no forearms, grabbed the world’s attention by winning his 10th gold medal at his fourth Paralympics. He was one of a crew of Chinese swimmers that dominated this year’s Rio Paralympic Games.
The Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, ended on Sunday, with Chinese swimmers winning 37 gold medals, 30 silvers and 25 bronzes. No country has earned this many gold medals in swimming in any previous Paralympics.
Xu won three golds in the Beijing Olympics in 2008, four in London in 2012 and another three in Rio this year, including a world record in 50-meter butterfly at S6 level. On a 1-to10 scale, S1 represents the swimmers with most serious disabilities. The Chinese media called Xu “the king of ten golds”.
Born in Pingdingshan, Henan province, one of the nation’s most populous regions, Xu lost his arms in a car accident when he was 6 years old.
“When I first got injured, I had no idea what this huge accident would mean formy life. But I sawmy father and mother suffer great sorrow and pain,” Xu said. “After I won second place at a national competition, I told them: ‘See? I can still be pretty good’. I just want them to feel proud of me.”
With that spirit, and a bit of luck, Xu started his Paralympic journey in 2004. He was the youngest in the Chinese delegation that year.
“In 2004, when I was 12, I took part in the Paralympics as
Xu Qing, the Chinese “flying fish”, won gold in the 50-meter butterfly final on Sept 9 in Rio de Janeiro.