Chinese President Hu Jintao on Wednesday paid a morale-boosting visit to the country's Paralympic athletes, urging them to "strive to become strong and fight for the best."
President Hu Jintao (C) sings a song with disabled people in Shichahai community home for the disabled in Beijing
With 16 days to go until the opening ceremony in Beijing, Hu, accompanied by Vice President Xi Jinping, went to the training center for Paralympic athletes in a northeastern suburb of the capital in the morning.
More than 300 Chinese athletes competing in the September 6-17 Games were busy training at the center, the country's first national-level training facility for disabled athletes.
The 547-member China delegation, the largest in history, will participate in all 20 events during the upcoming Paralympics.
Hu watched the training of the athletes in track and field, football, swimming and wheelchair basketball.
He cheered on Li Duan who had lost his sight 12 years ago in an accident, as he practiced long jump under the guidance of his coach. Li won two gold medals at the 2004 Athens Paralympics.
"I heard you used to play basketball and switched to long jump after an accident. It must have not been easy for you." Hu said while holding the blind man's hands.
"A soldier could be injured, but he remained a soldier. An armyman could fall down, but his will was unbeatable," Li, a soldier in service, responded in high spirit. He said he would fight for better performances at the Beijing Games.
Hu also shook hands with other track and field athletes, and looked over the artificial limbs and racing wheelchairs they used.
"I was here to cheer for you before the opening of the Games, and I was moved to see all of you striving to become stronger and training very hard." He wished them all good luck during the Games.
Hu also watched football players afflicted with cerebral palsy in training. They were the first-such group from China to represent the country in the Paralympics.
He wrote on a football "striving to become strong and fighting for the best," after the 12 athletes gave the president a football with their own signatures.
He said he hoped they would not only fight in the upcoming competition, but also in their daily lives.
At the swimming stadium, Hu said he believed the athletes would fully demonstrate their abilities and bring some glory for the country. Chinese swimmers had performed well in previous events.
Hu opened a game for wheelchair basketball players, and applauded the frequent baskets by the athletes. He urged players to put participation before winning and enjoy the fun of the Games.
Hu also visited a downtown community home for the disabled after he left the training center to find out about the community services provided for the ordinary handicapped population in the capital.
At the special home set in a courtyard, he chatted with the disabled who were painting, writing, surfing on the Internet, playing Chinese chess or receiving recovery exercises.
He also joined some mentally-challenged people who were learning to make pizzas and dumplings, and another 20 handicapped making handicrafts such as bracelets and cloth paintings.
"The country will take more measures and make more efforts to improve the living conditions to let all the handicapped have a happy life in their mother country," Hu pledged.
(Xinhua News Agency August 20, 2008)