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Print Edition> Nation
UPDATED: December 20, 2010 NO. 51 DECEMBER 23, 2010
Momentum for Progress
Sports help integrate disabled people into society

GOLD MEDALIST: Cai Yuqingyan wins the first gold medal for China in the women's S9 400-meter freestyle event in the 2010 Asian Para Games on December 13 (WANG SONG)

On December 13, the 2010 Asian Para Games in Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong Province, saw its first Chinese gold medal winner in the women's S9 400-meter freestyle competition. Fifteen-year-old swimmer Cai Yuqingyan clocked 4 minutes and 56.91 seconds in the final, nearly 4 seconds ahead of the previous Asian mark of 5:00.51 minutes, a record she set earlier.

After winning, Cai, who lost part of her right leg, said she was very happy to get into sports. "Swimming has changed my life. After I took up the sport, I won glory as an athlete by breaking the Asian record and winning gold medals," she said.

Growing Para-sports

China sent a delegation of a record 614 members to the 2010 Asian Para Games, including 431 athletes and 183 officials, coaches and working staff, larger than any other participating country or region. Chinese athletes competed in all 19 sports.

Sports for the disabled in China began in the 1950s, when physical education classes were offered in special schools for visual- or hearing-impaired people.

The government has allocated special funds for hosting national sports competitions for the disabled since the late 1950s.

Sports for the disabled became better organized after the establishment of the China Sports Association for the Disabled in 1983. Since then, many local sports organizations for the disabled have also mushroomed.

In 1984, China sent a delegation to the Paralympic Games for the first time, and visually impaired Ping Yali won the first gold for China in the women's long jump B2.

Seven national sports meetings for the disabled have been held in China since 1984. Niu Zhijun, an official from China Sports Association for the Disabled, said currently about 20 sports competitions for the disabled at various levels are held annually in China.

To train disabled athletes, a number of sports universities in Beijing, Shenyang in Liaoning Province, Tianjin and Shanghai offered disabled sport programs.

At the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games, Chinese athletes pocketed 89 golds, 70 silvers and 52 bronzes, leading in the goldmedal tally, which was a stunning success.

There are 83 million people with disabilities in China, and the number is expected to surpass 100 million in five years, reported China Daily recently.

Currently, more than 6 million disabled persons in China participate in sports, and China has more than 2.7 million disabled athletes, according to Xinhua News Agency.

Fostering a caring society

China should take the Asian Para Games as an opportunity to create a more caring society, said Vice Premier Hui Liangyu, who presented the first gold medal of the 2010 Asian Para Games to Japanese swimmer Takuro Yamad in Guangzhou on December 13.

"Caring for the disabled is the responsibility of both the government and society," said Hui. He added the government should "reinforce its efforts to set up social security and service systems for the disabled."

In Guangzhou, 512 barrier-free rooms are available to meet the special daily needs of athletes participating in the 2010 Asian Para Games, said Chen Guo, Deputy Secretary General of the Guangzhou Games' Organizing Committee at a press conference.

Organizers also provided barrier-free vehicles, more than 1,100 wheelchairs, 300 portable ramps and guide dogs for the visually impaired. Services such as wheelchairs and artificial limbs repairing are also available, Chen said.

Barrier-free facilities have been built outside the Games' venues, such as 16 long-distance bus stations in the host city.

In addition to barrier-free facilities, volunteers also help athletes. More than 25,000 volunteers were trained to provide assistance for disabled athletes. In addition, 500,000 city volunteers were trained to deliver services citywide in Guangzhou, according to organizers.

Volunteers were assigned to assure an absolutely quiet competition environment for athletes with visual impairment during the goalball and football events, these players can only judge the ball position through hearing.

For spectators with hearing impairment or speech disorders, sign language interpretation volunteers provided instant services at most of the venues.

Since athletes with visual impairment were unable to run toward the correct direction during the track events, volunteers served as their navigators.

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