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Earnest father hides himself from son at Paralympics

BEIJING -- Zhang Wanquan, a driver living in Shanghai, arrived in Beijing alone by train Sunday morning. He took a taxi to the National Fencing Hall where the Paralympic wheelchair fencing was held.

China`s Zhang Lei (L) competes against China`s Ye Ruyi during their men`s individual foil category A wheelchair fencing`s final at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games September 14, 2008. [Agencies]

His son Zhang Lei, was in the Hall, winning the gold medal in the men`s foil Category A later in the afternoon, without knowing his father had stayed in auditorium whole day to witness his glory.

"Lei doesn`t know I was here. I am afraid I`ll give him too much pressure to affect his performance if he knows," explained the 54-year-old Zhang.

Lei, silver medallist at the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, was beaten by his compatriot Ye Ruyi, sixth place winner in the world championships in 2006, to win the silver with a result of 15-12.

"Lei is always eager to win. Last time in Athens, after losing in the final, he sat alone for a long while swearing to win the gold in 2008," told Zhang.

"It is a pity that he lost in the final, but I am still very proud of him."

The father know his son well and promised his son not to come Beijing, but meanwhile he bought secretly two tickets of the Paralympic wheelchair fencing, one for Sunday`s foil event and another for next Monday`s epee event which Lei also involved in.

When watching his son`s competition, Zhang was very cautious not let his son notice him. When Lei turned his eyes to the auditorium, Zhang immediately turned his head with hands covering his face.

"I booked the tickets on the internet and took train to get the tickets in Beijing. People asked me why I took much time and money to do that, I told them with pride that I would go to Beijing to see my son competing at Paralympics," Zhang said.

According to China`s policy, Zhang could have one more child because of Lei`s disability of Poliomyelitis, but he did not do that.

"Lei is my only child and my most precious gift given by God," he said.

Lei started to practicing wheelchair fencing in 2001. At first his interest was in the wheelchair basketball, but the coaches in Shanghai thought he had the talent in wheelchair fencing.

"The foil is his strongest event, and I hope my son can do his best in the epee event too," Zhang said.

Wheelchair fencing competition, slated for September 14-17 at the Beijing Paralympics, attracted 88 players including 60 men and 24 women from 19 countries and regions.

Athletes who use wheelchairs are eligible to compete in wheelchair fencing in which the competition is static. The wheelchairs are fixed in place to the ground by metal frames and the chair is preferably clamped to both sides of the frame to keep the chair from tipping.

Date:2008-9-14 20:13:00     
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