BEIJING -- "Life is like never-ending Olympic Games," said 47-year-old Ping Yali, China`s first Paralympic champion, who summed up her understanding about life on Thursday.
Together with her guide dog "Lucky", the well-groomed Ping, who was invited as an image ambassador for the Beijing Paralympics, showed up in the Main Press Center and shared her story with others in a down-to-earth manner.
Ping Yali, who was China`s first Paralympics gold medallist, carries the flame at the National Stadium during the opening ceremony for the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games in the Chinese capital on September 6, 2008. [Agencies]
Ping, who suffered congenital cataract and lost mother love at an early age, drew public attention after winning China`s first Paralympic gold at the B2 long jump in the 7th Paralympic Games in the United States in 1984,
"My mother was diagnosed cancer when I was eight and I never forget the scene that she died with her eyes open because she was worried too much about her daughter`s future. The scene always triggers me to train and work hard," Ping recalled.
Her father, an army man, vowed to make his daughter well-educated despite her vision impairment.
Ping was brought to a school for the vision impaired. One day, when she played on the playground, her talent in sprint touched the nerve of her PE teacher and since then she started her sporting career.
Ping entered the national disabled athletics team in 1982 and won gold in B2 long jump with 4.28 meters in 1984 Paralympic Games. In 1986, she was crowned in 100- and 400-meter races and long jump at the Fourth Far South Games.
"I try my best to triumph, so as to bring more social attention and fund to the sports for the disabled at the early stage of China`s reform and opening up when the social care to the disabled could not be compared with that of today," Ping said.
Ping decided to retire in 1988 to take full care of her son who unfortunately also suffers inborn vision impairment.
After working in a factory for more than ten years, Ping turned out to be unemployed in 1999, as the factory was poorly managed.
At that moment, Ping was so frustrated that she dared not to considerate her and her son`s future.
"But life is like never-ending Olympic Games. I must be always in high spirit and drive myself to work hard in other arena for my son," Ping said emotionally.
Thanks for the experience that she once learnt some massage skills in school, she opened a massage center in her home in 1999 and earned surprising 2,000 yuan in the first-month operation.
Due to lack of market analysis, Ping`s massage business experienced ups and downs in the past ten years, but finally she pulled through.
Now, Ping boasts three massage shops in Beijing and is planning to open two more after the Beijing Paralympic Games.
At the opening ceremony of the Beijing Paralympics, Ping was in the limelight again. She delivered the Paralympic torch to the final torchbearer Hou Bin with the help of her guide dog "Lucky", amid the cheers and applauds of nearly 100,000 people in the Bird`s Nest.
"Disabled athletes are also stars when they stand on the podium. But when they step down, they should start to think how to open the new chapter of their lives. They should learn some skills and find a job, so as to be a champion not only at the Paralympics," she said.
China`s Paralympic athlete Sun Changting (R) transfers his flame to the torch of Ping Yali, who was China`s first Paralympics gold medallist, during the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games at the National Stadium, the Bird`s Nest, September 6, 2008. [Agenceis]
STORY BETWEEN "LUCKY" AND PING
Whenever mentioning her guide dog "Lucky", Ping smiles.
"I always feel proud for `Lucky`, but he did not like me at the very beginning," Ping said.
"Lucky" was selected for Ping by others from a Dalian-based guide dog training center in northeast China. At the beginning, the dog did not like the smell of Ping and felt nostalgia to his coach. He even fled home to look for his coach, but finally was found and brought back to Ping`s home by police.
"I try my best to caress him, for example, I comb fur for him every day. And gradually, we became close friends," Ping said.
"`Lucky` performed unbelievably well at the opening ceremony. The deafening applaud in the stadium made it impossible for "Lucky" to hear my order, but he could read the situation by himself," Ping said proudly.
"After seeing another torch bearer Sun Changping delivering torch to me, "Lucky" immediately led me to the final torch bearer Hou Wei without any help. At that time I was as nervous as when I competed in 1984 Paralympic Games, for fear of any mistakes made by him, but he performed so well," she added.
Ping expected "Lucky"`s appearance and excellent performance at the opening ceremony to arouse more social attention to guide dogs.
With living standard going high, an increasing number of Chinese people with vision impairment wish to have their own guide dogs, but the country`s guide dog training centers are still inadequate, Ping said.
"But I think `Lucky` is a milestone. His appearance at the opening ceremony will push forward the guide dog training and make more vision-impaired Chinese live more comfortably with not only barrier-free facilities, but a lovely guide dog," Ping said in confidence.