‘Fish­with­outwings’rack­supmedals

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - CHEN MENGWEI

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

XIAO YIJIU / XIN­HUA

Xu Qing, the Chi­nese “fly­ing fish”, won gold in the 50-meter but­ter­fly fi­nal on Sept 9 in Rio de Janeiro.

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