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For Paralympian Dong, life is always fun
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19:04, September 08, 2008

Paralympic athlete Dong Fuli is glowing when she recalls the June 1 Children's Day 32 years ago.

Basking in admiring stares of her schoolmates, the 7-year-old Dong, dressed in a red skirt made by her mother, performed a solo dance at the center of a square in north Chinese city Tangshan. "I have decided to be a dancer when I grow up," she told her mother that night.

Grow up she will, dance she will never.

A catastrophic earthquake flattened Tangshan on July 28, 1976, killed Dong's father and took away her right leg. When she was 19, her mother died.

"'Kid, you must be strong. Life is supposed to be fun and you've only got one to live. Do what is best for you.' That was what my mother told me before she died," Dong said.

"My mother's words are ringing in my ears all the time. I'm happy to be alive and I'm happy to be a Paralympic athlete," she added.

Dong took a job in the city's horticulture department at the age of 21.

"My superiors and colleagues really cared about me. They gave me easy work to do. I had regular income. Life was good. But I felt I meant to be something," recalled Dong.

Dong met a wheelchair basketball player by chance and the latter suggested she try sports because she looked physically strong.

Dong recommended herself to the Hebei wheelchair tennis team and without much persuasion, she was accepted.

"My mom had said, 'Being perfect isn't an option of life. Simply do the best you can do.' I am a hard worker like my mom. Guess what? One month after I picked up the tennis racket, I won my first national championship," said Dong.

In 1994, Dong represented China in the Far East and South Pacific Games for the Disabled (FESPIC Games), picking a doubles silver and a singles bronze. She claimed the singles gold in Japan Open in 2005 and the doubles gold and singles silver in the 2006 FESPIC Games.

Dong has a 17-year-old daughter born to her first husband, who was killed in a car accident in 2005. Her second husband Chen Yong is a tennis coach.

"Despite back-to-back tragedies, I always look at the bright side of life. Both my daughter and husband are very supportive of my career," said Dong.

"I am very proud of my daughter. She has been a good help in family chores since she was 6. And she is proud of me too. She never feels embarrassed when she introduces me to her friends."

When a deadly earthquake hit southwest China's Sichuan province on May 12, Dong was playing a tournament outside China.

"I was saddened when I heard the news," said Dong. "Everything flashed back to my mind: collapsed buildings, amputated limbs, dead bodies, grieving faces."

To the survivors of the quake, Guo said: "You must trust yourself. Be strong. Be Happy. Live a happy life, not only for yourself, but for the beloved ones who are no longer there."


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