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Professor gets relay going
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08:49, September 03, 2008

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· Paralympics
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The sun shone as the Paralympic torch relay arrived here yesterday in the capital of Jiangsu province, the latest stop along its "ancient China" route.

The 3-km, 90-minute run began at Dr Sun Yat-sen's Mausoleum and involved 60 torchbearers, six of them disabled.

University professor Hou Jingjing, who has been confined to a wheelchair since losing her legs to polio at the age of 11, was the first to carry the torch.

"I feel really happy and honored to be the relay's first torchbearer," she said.

Despite her physical disability, Hou, a native of Ma'anshan in Anhui province, has always had a passion for life, and a love for the English language, which she began studying as a young girl.

In 1997, she completed a bachelor's degree in English and followed that a year later with a master's in the same subject from Nanjing Normal University. In 2004, she completed her PhD to become China's first wheelchair-bound doctor.

"I always felt I could achieve the same things as able-bodied people because I have confidence in myself, and have always received strong support from both my family and society as a whole," Hou said.

She has given back to society by working with young people at delinquency prisons, as well as donating the money she was awarded for being a model worker to poor students and orphans across China.

Running the last leg of yesterday's relay was local sports coach Zhou Zengfu.

He said six athletes from Nanjing will take part in the Beijing Games and he expects them all to do well.

"I am confident that Nanjing athletes will win about 10 medals at the Paralympics," he said.

Over the past 20 years, 67-year-old Zhou has trained several Paralympic champions.

"The Paralympics is a not only a sporting event, but also a chance for disadvantaged people from around the world to get together and learn from each other and get to know more about the world," Zhou said.

Mu Guiying, president of the Nanjing Disabled People's Association, said that over the past several years, local authorities have done much to improve the lives and working conditions of Nanjing's 441,500 disabled residents, who account for more than 6 percent of the city's total population.

The proportion of disabled people in work has risen from 60 percent in 2003 to 80 percent last year, while 99 percent of all disabled children now receive compulsory education.

Source: China Daily



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