Have you ever heard of the basketball girl? She is the little girl who’s incredible story is unlike anything you have ever heard. Her name is Qian Hongyan from China. In 2000, when Hongyan was 4 years old she lost both of her legs in a tragic accident that nearly took her life. She didn’t let the near death experience and loss of her legs stop her from chasing her dreams.
Coming from a poor family, Hongyan didn’t have much in the way of material things, but what she lacked in possessions her family made up for in love and support. After the accident, Hongyan found it difficult to get around, and that’s when her loving Grandfather made a basketball as a replacement for the lower half of her body. This clever invention got Hongyan attention in the town and the townspeople began to call her “basketball girl”. She not only got local attention, but in 2005 her story went public and she attracted the international media.
When Westerners heard of Hongyan’s story, donations began to pour in. Thanks to the charity of strangers, a trip to Beijing to be fitted for her first pair of prosthetics was made possible for Hongyan. The money also helped Hongyan finish her education in primary school, but that was as far as she could go. Her family just didn’t have the money to pay for more schooling and this is when Hongyan found her passion for swimming. She began to swim with a team for the disabled, called South of the Cloud. The team welcomed her, but it wasn’t an easy start for Hongyan. “It seemed there was no way I could float in the water. I always choked.”
But she never gave up and her drive to swim lead her to success in the pool. In only a few short years she was taking home gold medals at national championships. In 2011 her grandfather passed away and the personal tragedy was hard on Hongyan. The loss of her beloved grandfather was not the only loss she experienced in 2011. During qualifying swimming competition she got a bronze medal and it took her out of the running for a place on the paralympic swim team. Feeling down and out, Hongyan’s village greeted her like a hero on her return home. The strength and support of her town and family helped her quickly overcome her setbacks and she started to train again.
When Hongyan won the 100 meter breaststroke at the Yunnan Provincial Paralympic Games, the victory lifted her spirits. Hongyan has overcome incredible odds and fought through hardships many of us will never face; she is an inspiration.
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