Flat tire halts Par­a­lympian’s NYC marathon at­tempt

China Daily (USA) - - FRONT PAGE - By HEZI JIANG in New York hez­i­jiang@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

Some­times the hard­est part is not to keep go­ing, but see­ing others pass by.

Sun­day was Chi­nese wheel­chair ath­lete Zou Li­hong’s first New York City Marathon, and her right rear tire went flat at the 13th-mile point, half­way through the 26.2-mile five-bor­ough run. The tire couldn’t be re­paired.

Zou was in­vited to the event after win­ning the gold medal in the women’s marathon at the Rio Par­a­lympics in the sum­mer, where she nar­rowly beat Tatyana McFad­den, an Amer­i­can marathoner who had swept 17 straight vic­to­ries in ma­jor marathons, in­clud­ing Sun­day’s.

“Rio was a sur­prise to all of us. It was only my fourth marathon,” said Zou. “Most of my com­peti­tors are very ex­pe­ri­enced. I ad­mire McFad­den a lot.”

McFad­den won the women’s wheel­chair race on Sun­day, com­plet­ing a grand slam of the Lon­don, Bos­ton, Chicago and New York marathons for the fourth straight year. Mar­cel Hug of Switzer­land won for the sec­ond year in the men’s wheel­chair com­pe­ti­tion.

Mary Kei­tany of Kenya ran to her third con­sec­u­tive vic­tory for pro­fes­sional women, and in the men’s race, Ghir­may Ghe­bres­lassie, 20, of Eritrea, be­came the youngest win­ner in his­tory.

Zou Li­hong said she will try to come back to the US an­other time — to fin­ish a marathon and to see the Statue of Lib­erty.

De­spite not be­ing in the best phys­i­cal con­di­tion after a break from the Par­a­lympics, Zou de­cided to ac­cept the in­vi­ta­tion to the NYC Marathon be­cause it gave her an­other chance to be among the world’s best.

Her team sup­ported and cheered for her through mes­sages and calls. “It feels like they are all here with me,” she said dur­ing an in­ter­view be­fore the race.

When she re­al­ized she couldn’t con­tinue, she thought of her sup­port­ers.

“They tried so hard to make this trip hap­pen for me. Get­ting the visa on a short no­tice alone was not easy. But I couldn’t fin­ish,” she said.

While Zou waited for a bus to pick her up, a vol­un­teer came to her, took off his coat and draped it over her shoul­ders.

Zou, 32, was born with po­lio that left her right leg par­a­lyzed. She was man­ag­ing a small gro­cery store in Dali, in South­west China’s Yun­nan Prov­ince in 2009 when the fa­ther of a dis­abled cy­clist saw her on the street and told her about the pos­si­bil­ity of be­com­ing an ath­lete.

She went to Shang­hai for a try­out and was told she had tal­ent. Zou started with the fenc­ing team. Her left leg was nor­mal, so sit­ting in a wheel­chair for a long run painfully numbs her leg, but she loves rac­ing.

Zou main­tained her smile and said she likes New York City. She will try to come back an­other time — to fin­ish a marathon and to see the Statue of Lib­erty.

NYRR

Chi­nese wheel­chair ath­lete Zou Li­hong com­petes in the New York City marathon on Sun­day. She dropped out of the race at the 13th mile due to a flat tire.

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