Recently we posted a story about how basketball is now the most popular sport in China, surpassing soccer. But 12-year-old Chinese swimmer Qian Hongyan has long been ahead of that trend, as she quite obviously preferred basketball beginning nine years ago.
(Qian has been fortunate enough to avoid dreaded NBA composite balls)
The 10 year-old was injured trajically in an auto accident when she was only 3 years old. To insure her survival, the doctors were forced to amputate her legs.
Qian’s family, living in Zhuangxia, China, was unable to afford modern prosthetics and instead used a half a basketball to get around on. Once on the ball she uses two wooden props to help her move around.
The little girl, who is now in training for the 2012 Paralympic Games, has become an inspirational story throughout China.
More pics and video of her after the jump.
As the Asian Paralympic Games approach in a couple years, there’s been several followups to Qian’s story, but the China Daily piece has the relevant background on her life struggles. Thankfully she now has access to modern prosthetics, which apparently she hasn’t adjusted to all that well. She still uses a basketball to get around and prefers a wheelchair otherwise.
She’s one of the top Paralympic swimmers in the world, and one of her coaches made it clear that sports completely changed her once-depressed life outlook.
“She’s one of the best Paralympic swimmers in China for her age, easily world top 10,” said Zhang Honggu, who started the South of the Clouds Swimming Club for the Disabled in Kunming, Yunnan province, where Qian trains.
“She is still fresh to the sport, having barely spent one year in the pool, so we’re not taking any chances with her,” added coach Li Keqiang. “We don’t want to do anything that may damage her confidence.”
When she came to the swimming club, the first of its kind in China, last August, she was “weighed down with sorrow, quiet, and introverted,” said Zhang. “Now she is outgoing and cheerful.”
While Yao Ming has had a lot to do with the rise of basketball popularity in China, I have a sneaking feeling this girl, in a small way, might’ve have had something to do with it too.
She’s also done the impossible: Made me want to root for China in something other than Jackie Chan movies.