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Paddler looks ahead to London Games

Gao Yanming did not claim any medals at the Beijing Paralympics. But more importantly to him, he believed the event offered him a golden opportunity to help more people who have disabilities become involved in sports.

The 45-year-old owner of an office automation company plans to start a fund to buy wheelchairs for local people who have disabilities, enabling them to engage in exercise.

After two years` intensive training, Gao became the first Chinese to participate in the Paralympics` men`s individual table tennis class B tournaments - the highest level of disability for an athlete from the country to participate in to date.

It was this experience, and everything leading up to it, that inspired him to start the fund.

"I have devoted myself to the sport, because it gives my life purpose and meaning," he said, clad in the national team`s blue and yellow uniform.

"Also, it has enhanced my body, and now, I can do a lot of things I couldn`t do before. I want to share this with more people."

Before Gao started playing table tennis, he said, he was attended to by a nurse, because could not do things such as dress himself.

Gao graduated from Liaoning Sports Institute in the 1980s. After working as a sports instructor for three years, he launched his office automation firm in Anshan, Liaoning province, in 1992.

Five years later, he experienced a spinal injury when he dived headfirst into shallow water in a swimming pool.

He spent years undergoing physical therapy in a local hospital and a residential club. One day during his therapy, a nurse asked him to play table tennis. It was his first time playing the game, and he surprised himself by playing several rounds.

From that point on, there was no turning back. Table tennis became a central pillar of his physical therapy until 2006, when he qualified for the Beijing Paralympics.

He then asked relatives to look after his business so he could concentrate on training.

His first opponent at the Games was three-time Paralympic gold medalist Kim Kyung Mook, who beat Gao.

After losing three matches, a disappointed Gao called his daughter.

"But my daughter told me that being able to compete with the best table tennis players is a wonderful experience, and, no matter how the match ended, she is proud of me," he said, smiling.

He believed the main reasons he lost were that he had a short training period and not much experience competing in international matches.

"There are no shortcuts in table tennis," he said. "I will continue training and focus on preparing for the 2012 London Paralympic Games," he added.

He also believed the volunteers who have made great contributions during the Paralympics should not cease their work when the Games end but instead continue it in local residential areas.

Date:2008-9-15 10:11:00     
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