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Print Edition> Lifestyle
UPDATED: May 6, 2011 NO. 19 MAY 12, 2011
Fighting for Rights
Paralyzed gymnast brings a compensation lawsuit to U.S. courts for an accident 13 years ago

OPTIMISTIC GIRL: Sang Lan is honored as one of the 2008 Olympic Games torchbearers (QI HENG)

Former Chinese gymnast Sang Lan, who was left paralyzed after landing head first during a practice vault at the 1998 Goodwill Games in New York, filed a lawsuit on April 28 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, demanding $1.8 billion in compensation.

Sang is suing five institutions—AOL Time Warner Inc., the U.S. Gymnastics Federation, TIG Insurance Co., TIG Specialty Insurance Solutions, Riverstone Claims Management LLC, and three persons—Ted Turner, former Vice Chairman of Time Warner and founder of the Goodwill Games, and two legal guardians appointed to look after her following the accident.

These institutions and persons were accused of breaking promises to take care of Sang after the accident.

Born in 1981, Sang showed her talent in gymnastics at a young age. She won the all-around and every single event final at the Ninth Zhejiang Province Sports Meet in 1991. After becoming a member of the national gymnastics team of China in 1993, she was crowned at the National Gymnastics Championship of China in vaulting in 1997.

At the Goodwill Games in 1998, Sang landed on her head during warm-ups for the vault event final. She later found she had fractured and dislocated her C6 and C7 vertebrae and severely injured her spinal cord, which resulted in paralysis from the mid-chest down and a wheelchair for life.

Following 10 months of treatment and recuperation at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital, Sang returned to China, becoming a celebrity and an advocate for the disabled. The stubbornness and optimism Sang showed after the accident earned her attention and applause from both sides of the Pacific Ocean and she has also earned the title, Smiling Angel, among Chinese.

She graduated from the School of Journalism and Communications of Peking University in 2007. She hosted the program Sang Lan 2008 on Hong Kong-based Star TV, and was chosen as an ambassador for Beijing's 2008 Olympics bid and an Olympics relay torchbearer.

On August 6, 2010, 12 years after the accident in New York, Sang said her nightmare of injuries had not been merely a freak accident and she would sue those she believes were responsible.

Sang wrote in her blog she had been distracted in the air because she saw a Romanian coach walking into the area and pulling away a mattress. "The disturbance made me hesitate in doing my move in the air which led to the tragedy," she said, adding that the poor management and bad organization on site of the 1998 Goodwill Games were the main reasons behind the accident.

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