|Medalist or not, everybody is the champion
BEIJING -- Forget Du Li and Katerina Emmons.
Without the pinups, spectators were still ardent and shooters equally concentrated in the same venue where Du and Emmons won gold medals at last month`s Olympic Games.
China`s Jin Xiaoqin (C) swims next to compatriot Chen Zhonglan (R) and Russia`s Anna Vengerovskaya (L) during the Women`s 100m Butterfly S8 heat at the National Aquatics Centre, or the Water Cube, in Beijing September 7, 2008. [Agencies]
When the young Slovakian shooter Veronika Vadovicova nabbed the first Paralympic gold, excited spectators cheered.
When Australian 10-time Paralympian Libby Kosmala, already 66 years old and appearing a little bit tired in the lengthy competition, didn`t do well in some shots, she was also greeted with applauses.
It gave people an illusion that everybody is the champion.
In fact, this is indeed the case to some extent.
Beijing Paralympics 1st gold medalist Veronika Vadovicova of Slovak competes in the women`s 10-meter air rifle standing SH1 final in Beijing, September 7, 2008. [Xinhua]
I met an Australian man namely Jason Maroney, who was injured in a car accident 19 years ago and was hence confined to a wheelchair. "I drank a lot," he said. "I felt angry and depressed."
However, the fan of hunting managed to find shooting an outlet, on which he could focus and better himself. "Shooting makes me happy," he said. After meeting more people from competitions worldwide, Maroney became optimistic.
The shooter has a teammate who had participated in 10 sessions of Paralympics, which encouraged him to do likewise. "I will compete in as many Paralympics as I can," he said firmly.
China`s goalball players compete in the women`s goalball preliminaries at the Beijing Paralympics, Spetember 7, 2008. [Xinhua]
I talked with a pretty lady from South Korea, Kim Im-yeon. Born with disability in the legs, the cheerful Kim admitted that she was autistic and had thought of ending her own life.
But it was sports that changed her personality or even life. Kim said she liked basketball, swimming, softball and especially shooting, which taught her to fight for victory.
She then made many friends to share her happiness and sorrow. Four years ago, she got married and now the 41-year-old is mother of a lovely boy, whose tiny photo hang on her wheelchair. "I must cherish myself," she said, "there are always obstacles in life, but if you never stop trying, a more beautiful tomorrow will be awaiting."
Sweden`s wheelchair basketball players hold up a banner reading: "Thank You, China" after they defeat Japan`s team in the preliminaries at the Beijing Paralympics, Spetember 7, 2008. [sohu.com]
I know well that to athletes like them, Paralympics is far from just a sports event and medals not always important.
Look, at the opening ceremony, those on wheelchairs were waving, and those who couldn`t see were beaming, no matter which language they spoke and what colors their national flags bore.
Paralympics is a carnival to them all, for them to enjoy and build up confidence.
No, not just athletes.
Olivier Donval (R) and John Saccomandi (L) of France compete in the men`s individual pursuit (B&VI) cycling track competition at the Beijing Paralympic Games on September 7, 2008 in the Laoshan Velodrome. [Agencies]
I saw the dance of a girl with one leg. The massive earthquake that jolted southwest China deprived her of the left leg, but not her dream of ballet. On the wheelchair, Li Yue in white skirt extended her arms, like a swan about to fly.
I heard the song of a singer in the darkness. "If I was blessed to see the world for three days, I want to see my dad, my mom and you, my dear audiences," said Yang Haitao in an emotional monologue afterwards.
Britain`s Helen Freeman fights for the ball against Australia`s Shelley Chaplin (12), Kylie Gauci (11) and Clare Burzynski (10) during their wheelchair basketball preliminaries Group A match at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games, September 7, 2008. Australia won 59-30. [Agencies]
I was touched by the performances of all the disabled artists at the Paralympic opening ceremony. Although some couldn`t hear the cheers from spectators, some couldn`t see the splendor of "Bird Nest", they played with extreme concentration and sincerity on a platform which they mounted for the first time, and maybe the only chance, in their entire lives.
Don`t forget the disabled journalists, some of whom couldn`t see but they can convey to the world what they feel with the hearts.
Nichole Millage (front) and Katie Holloway of the US defend against Lithuania during their sitting volleyball preliminaries Group B match at the Beijing 2008 Paralympic Games September 7, 2008. [Agencies]
And the spectators with disabilities. "The Beijing Paralympics created a chance for the world to understand China and the abled people to understand the disabled," said Gao Yuliang, a doctor on the wheelchair, who went to watch the competition from the neighboring Hebei province.
Only then did I realize that "transcendence, integration and equality" was more than a slogan.
Two Iran`s wheelchair basketball players celebrate after beating South Africa in the opener of the men`s wheelchair basketball at the Beijing paralympics, September 7, 2008. [Xinhua]
Unlike the Olympics in which the fastest, the highest and the strongest are gauges for the best, at the Paralympics, everyone fighting for his own destiny deserves a gold medal.
Just like the lyric of a song played again and again at the Beijing Shooting Range Hall goes:
"We have come to decide our fate, we are here to celebrate."
"We celebrate our diversity around the world with the passion to play, the planet will be watching, the message will be heard."
"We will make our stand beyond the game, beyond the game..."
An American girl cheers for the competitors at the National Aquatics Centre, also known as the Water Cube, in Beijing September 7, 2008. [Xinhua]
US spectators wave American national flag to cheer for the competitors at the National Aquatics Centre, also known as the Water Cube, in Beijing September 7, 2008. [Xinhua]
Klaus Lungershausen of Germany (R) competes with Christopher Scott of Austria (L) in the men`s individual pursuit (CP4) cycling track competition during the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games on September 7, 2008 at the Laoshan Velodrome. [Agencies]
Stephane Cote (R) and Pierre-Oliver Boily (L) of Canada compete in the men`s individual pursuit (B&VI) cycling track competition during the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games on September 7, 2008 at the Laoshan Velodrome.[Agencies]
Natalie du Toit of South Africa swims during the women`s 100m Butterfly S9 heat at the 2008 Paralympics at the National Aquatics Centre, also known as the Water Cube, in Beijing September 7, 2008. [Agencies]
China`s Liu Ce swims during the men`s 200m individual medley SM6 heat at the 2008 Paralympics at the National Aquatics Centre, also known as the Water Cube, in Beijing September 7, 2008. [Agencies]