Inspiring more people with disabilities to create better lives

Intro: “Our goal is to compete safely, show good spirit, strive for success and promote friendship,” said Zhang Haidi, president of Rehabilitation International, chairperson of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation and China’s chef de mission, at the launch of the Chinese squad for Tokyo 2020.

Zhang Haidi, president of Rehabilitation International, chairperson of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation and China’s chef de mission at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, is interviewed at Narita Airport for the Tokyo Paralympic Games in Japan, Aug 22, 2021. [Photo/Xinhua]

“Our goal is to compete safely, show good spirit, strive for success and promote friendship,” said Zhang Haidi, president of Rehabilitation International, chairperson of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation and China’s chef de mission at the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics, at the launch of the Chinese squad for Tokyo 2020.

The Paralympic Games, the world’s largest competition for athletes with disabilities, came after a yearlong postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Zhang said the Paralympic Games were held amid the pandemic, when the spirit of the Paralympians to face challenges and fight hard demonstrated their love for life, the courage to overcome difficulties, the indomitable will and optimistic lifestyle, which will inspire more people with disabilities to create better lives.

The Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games kicked off on Aug. 24, 2021, in a near-empty stadium without spectators amid the pandemic. Andrew Parsons, president of the International Paralympic Committee, told athletes during the opening ceremony that they were “the best of humanity.”

The opening ceremony featured the national flags of the 162 delegations represented, which included the Refugee Paralympic Team.

The first woman refugee Paralympian Alia Issa, a Syrian refugee living in Greece, said that it was “a big honor” for her to be on the team. “I want to share (this message) with women around with disabilities: don’t stay at home. Try every day with sports to be outside in the world. I hope that I am the first example to follow,” said the club thrower.

Seiko Hashimoto, president of the Tokyo organizing committee, said: “I truly believe that the image of the para-athletes overcoming difficulties and going beyond their own limits will inspire great hope in people.”

On her journey to the Games, swimmer Jiang Yuyuan, who at 16 is Team China’s youngest Paralympian, said: “Swimming makes me feel very free. As someone with a disability, I might need the help of a wheelchair or a walking aid on the road. But in the water, I can decide where I go myself.”

Jiang claimed the women’s 400m freestyle S6 swimming gold with a new world record. “I’ve never done a time like this before, it’s so much faster than anything I’ve swam before,” said the 16-year-old, attributing her performance to the last two years of concentrating on training.

After almost two weeks of excitement and inspiration, the Tokyo Paralympics officially came to an end on Sunday. China ultimately won 96 gold medals, 60 silvers and 51 bronzes, to finish atop the medal tally. Great Britain came in second with 124 medals and 41 gold, followed by the United States and the Russian Paralympic Committee.

The Paralympic flag was formally passed on to Paris in anticipation of the 2024 Games.

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