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Paralympians set Water Cube on fire
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08:30, September 08, 2008

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· Paralympics
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The Water Cube was set on fire, this time without Michael Phelps. Swimmers drew loud cheers as they set 13 new Paralympic Games records on the first day of the competitions yesterday.

The 10,000-seat National Aquatics Center was packed to capacity, with spectators enjoying every nano-second of the 16 events on offer.

Swimmer Du Jianping claimed the host country's first gold medal, winning the men's 100m freestyle S3 event.

But before him, Slovakian shooter Veronika Vadovicova won the first gold of the Beijing Paralympics, lifting the women's 10m air rifle standing SH1 title.

President Hu Jintao, who declared the Paralympics open on Saturday, was back at the Games yesterday to watch the Chinese and UK hoopsters in action. In a one-sided game, the UK team emerged a 81-34 winner.

Back at the Water Cube, spectators expressed their excitement by cheering the swimmers. "The competitions are great," said Yao Juncai, a wheelchair-bound spectator who came all the way from Zhejiang province.

"The Water Cube is very convenient for us wheelchair-spectators. From hotel to the venue, I met with no barrier."

The Paralympics offers people who could not get a ticket for the Olympics another chance to see the magnificent venues, a spectator said. But more importantly, it's a chance for them to learn what perseverance is - they just need to watch the physically challenged athletes in action.

"The Paralympics gives us the chance to learn more about the physically challenged and their perseverance," said Qin Yanlin, a civil servant who brought his 6-year-old son along to watch the competitions.

"I also want my son to see the fighting spirit of the Paralympians."

With 472 gold medals on offer, the Paralympics will see more than 4,000 athletes in action.

Twenty-seven golds were decided yesterday, with the US leading the medals tally with four golds, two silvers and three bronzes. Great Britain was second, and China, third.

Spectators flocked to minor venues too. At the Workers' Gymnasium, venue of four categories of judo competitions, about 4,000 people egged the judokas with encouraging shouts.

"The spirit of the athletes has moved me, especially when I was watching the competitions closely," said 58-year-old Zhang Hansheng, a government employee sitting in the front row with his wife.

The couple said they had failed to get tickets to any of the Olympic events last month, but were looking forward to the actions at the Paralympics.

"We also have tickets to the Bird's Nest for later this week. I'm really looking forward to seeing it from inside," Zhang said.

Source: China Daily

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