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Unbeatable spirit lights the flame
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08:33, September 08, 2008

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He was nine when he lost his left leg in a train accident on International Children's Day. But he could read the message in the eyes of the people who rescued him. They "thought my life was finished".

Hou Bin has not only proved them wrong, but also is a big enough success to have the honor of lighting the Paralympic Games torch in the National Stadium on Saturday.

Sitting in his wheelchair, the three-time Paralympic gold medallist took five minutes to pull himself up a rope with bare hands and "fly" to roof of the Bird's Nest to light the torch.

The three-time Paralympic gold medalist's grit and determination are exemplary for even an able-bodied athlete, for he rehearsed the rope climbing sequence nearly 170 times.

"Hanging 40 meters (above ground) every day almost scared me to death," the 33-year-old wrote on his blog less than three hours after the opening ceremony.

Born in Heilongjiang province, Hou took up many hobbies after the accident. "I took to a lot of hobbies such as painting, wood-carving and calligraphy (initially) I didn't think about becoming a Paralympic athlete," he wrote.

He grew interested in sports only in 1992, while watching the National Games for Disabled Persons. "While watching the event, I told myself: 'I can do it too'."

So he joined the local athletics team, starting with events such as shot put, javelin and discus. He was attracted to high jump, his forte, much later. "I enjoy flying in the air (but not as high as 40 m)," he says.

He trained with able-bodied athletes but worked harder and longer than them to overcome his physical handicap.

Hou's efforts bore fruit in 1996, when he was selected in China's squad for the Atlanta Paralympics. He paid back the trust and made the country proud, winning his first gold.

He continued his winning streak in Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004, and became the first Chinese to win three straight Paralympic golds.

Unfortunately, he lost the chance to compete at home and win his fourth gold because his discipline had to be dropped for lack of participants.

"It's a pity I can't compete this time because I had been preparing for it for the past several years." He is still determined to continue contributing to the Paralympic movement, though.

"I'm very happy to be here there are a lot of things that I can do for the Paralympic movement. Maybe I can take younger athletes to participate in the next Games," he says.

Hou thinks it is his responsibility to promote the Paralympic movement across China and encourage more disabled people to live an active life. "There are more than 80 million disabled people in China, but society has not paid much attention to us," he says.

Hou's efforts, however, have attracted the attention of not only people in the country, but also the rest of the world.

Early this year, International Paralympic Committee (IPC) President Philip Craven appointed Hou as IPC's first ambassador to promote the Paralympic movement.

"I will seize the opportunity to promote the athleticism and spirit of the Paralympians and introduce their encouraging stories to the world," Hou said on the occasion.

But his words at the Peking University in August best sum up his motto: "We can beat our fates. Everyone is a champion."

Source: China Daily

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