Winter sports add ‘wings’ to Chinese children with disabilities

By Zhou Shanshan, People’s Daily

Luanchuan County Special Education School, a school for children with disabilities located deep in Funiu Mountains in central China’s Henan province, has brought students the opportunity to enjoy a better life by introducing ice and snow sports.

Students in the special education school in Luanchuan county, Luoyang, Henan province, suffer from various types of disabilities. Some of them are deaf-mute children, children with cerebral palsy, autism, and Down’s syndrome.

Since 2019, when the school started to provide winter sports training, more than 30 children from the school have won over 60 medals in a good number of national competitions. Five students of the school will compete at the 12th Special Olympics World Winter Games to be held in Kazan, Russia.

“Skiing is fun because you can glide so fast that it’s like you are flying in the sky like a bird,” said a member of the cross-country skiing team of the school.

From crying “help” and “this is impossible” to be able to ski on his own and then claiming silver in a national competition, Lou Jiayuan, an autistic student in Luanchuan County Special Education School, has finally found his stage through winter sports.

A young athlete from Luanchuan County Special Education School, a school for children with disabilities in Luanchuan county, Luoyang, central China’s Henan province, practices skiing. (Photo by Wang Tianding)

Zhang Jiayi, a deaf-mute girl who loves skiing, becomes excited whenever she talks about the sport. She is eager to take part in competitions, Zhang said in sign language.

Ice and snow sports have helped these disabled children regain confidence, and their passion for winter sports has made them stronger.

To these children, winter sports are not only hobbies but rather a door that leads to a bigger world and a better life.

It doesn’t take a genius to imagine just how hard it is for children of this special education school to pursue their dreams in winter sports. Thanks to those who have made things that once seemed impossible possible for these children, they are now enjoying the journey toward their dreams.

In 2015, Beijing won the bid to host the 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games, which spurred a new wave of winter sports in various parts of China, including the mountainous area where these disabled children live and study.

Photo taken on April 29, 2021, shows people with disabilities taking part in a floor curling competition at the sports base of Changxing County, Huzhou City, east China’s Zhejiang province. (Photo by Tan Yunfeng/People’s Daily Online)

Luanchuan County Special Education School encountered numerous difficulties when it first tried to teach students winter sports. It had neither professional coaches nor sufficient facilities. However, instead of giving up, teachers and parents have made every effort to overcome these difficulties.

With the efforts of various parties, the school hired professional coaches and built a ski course for cross-country skiing training and a venue for floor curling training. Since it’s more difficult for children with disabilities to understand and learn than able-bodied children, their coaches always demonstrate movements to them time after time with great patience.

It’s the support from their parents, the painstaking efforts made by their school, and the loving care from the society that enabled children of the school to truly understand the charm of ice and snow sports.

As they practice hard for their dreams and become their better selves, children of the school, through outstanding performance and their stories of self-improvement, show the world that though they are imperfect, they can find a way to shine. At the same time, these children have made more people pay attention to children like them.

On their journey toward dreams inspired by ice and snow sports, these children are turning from dream chasers to role models. Winter sports have not only made them more confident but enabled them to encourage and inspire more people with their experience.

“Life hasn’t been perfect for them, but they look beautiful when they try hard for dreams,” a netizen commented after reading their stories.

Besides Luanchuan county, such heartwarming stories are also taking place in many other parts of the country.

An athlete with disabilities takes part in snowboarding training at Genting Snow Park in Zhangjiakou city, north China’s Hebei province, Feb. 22, 2021. (Photo by Wu Diansen/People’s Daily Online)

Last year, 4,484 athletes competed at the 11th National Games for Persons with Disabilities & the eighth National Special Olympic Games held in northwest China’s Shaanxi province, breaking 36 world records in events including shooting, archery, and swimming, and setting 179 new national records.

Today, by taking part in sports competitions, more and more people with disabilities have experienced the charm of sports activities, enjoyed better physical and mental health, and further integrated themselves into social development.

China, which is home to 85 million people with disabilities, has been trying to help these people find ways to unlock their strengths and live better life. The country believes that sports are a bridge that brings people with disabilities and the able-bodied closer, and that pooling more love and strength, it can help more disabled people enjoy a more wonderful life.

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