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Handcyclist at Beijing Paralympics inspires many in California hometown
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13:25, September 14, 2008

In Elk Grove, a pastoral suburb town just south of California's capital of Sacramento, people are watching the ongoing 2008 Paralympic Games with special enthusiasm, because a man from their neighborhood is in Beijing to compete for his first Paralympic gold medal in hand cycling.

Alejandro Albor is a celebrity figure in the town, everyone knows his name. For many people in Elk Grove, the 44-year-old double-leg amputee athlete is not only the number one handcyclist in the United States, but also a role model who inspires them to live positively, to love family and to help others.

"People who knows him are all proud of him. Being a handicapped, his success as a person and an athlete is definitely a great inspiration for healthy lives," said Joe Wolf, a post office employee. "I hope he has fun in Beijing."

Although there is no Paralympics coverage on television, people are tracking the events and Albor's second Paralympic journey through a special website on the Internet and Albor's blog, where the athlete shares his Beijing experience with his friends.

In a latest blog diary, Albor posted his pictures take in the Olympic village, and told his friends that he was having a great time in Beijing.

"The Olympic village is amazing. The Athens village was beautiful, but can't even compare to Beijing's Olympic Village, which also has all of the facilities needed for wheelchair users," he wrote.

Albor, who runs a company making costume handcycles in Elk Grove, made his Paralympic debut in Athens in 2004, when handcycling was first introduced as an official Paralympic sport. He won a silver medal in Athens.

Before he was leaving for Beijing earlier this month, Albor said he would go for gold at the Paralympics, but the more important thing was to inspire others with disabilities through his personal quest for success.

"I want to set an example for others and let them know that no matter where you come from, or what you have gone through, if you have the determination, you can make your dreams come true," he said.

Albor migrated to California from Mexico with his migrant worker parents when he was 15. Two years later, after the experience of extreme poverty, discrimination, adjustment to a new culture and a breakup with his girl friend, he lost his two legs in a suicide attempt.

But he finally came out of the shadow of life, graduated from community college as a mechanic, established a family, and began to design and built handcycles for disabled friends. Then he started his own handcycle company, which sells custom-made handcyles at much cheaper prices than others.

Meanwhile, through sports Albor found the freedom that the loss of his legs had taken from him. With support of his family, he began entering handcycling races across the country in 1999, and joined the U.S. Cycling Team in Athens.

Now a world-class Paralympic athlete, Albor is often invited to speak at local schools. He talks with children from kindergarten to high school about perseverance, making positive life choices, working hard and staying away from drugs and being healthy.

Source:Xinhua

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