Feature: A long road ahead for China's disabled marathon runners

(Xinhua) 10:40, October 28, 2021

XI'AN, Oct. 27 (Xinhua) -- 47 athletes took part in the marathon event at China's 11th National Games for Persons with Disabilities here on Tuesday, showing their great determination to challenge themselves.


Although Tian Yajuan only finished fifth in her T54 event, the 23-year-old wheelchair debutant was satisfied after finishing her first marathon at the National Games.

"I took up the sport two years ago. As a rookie, I'd like to try more major events. Compared with other competitions, the marathon strengthens my mind better," Tian told Xinhua.

Zhang Yong of Shanghai, silver medalist at the Tokyo Paralympics, won the men's T54 wheelchair event, clocking 1:25:25.

"The marathon is a tough event that showcases our great determination and a spirit of never giving up," said Zhang.

"Any wheelchair athlete without a strong mind won't be able to finish the event," he added.

After crossing the finishing line, China's Paralympic elites Zhou Zhaoqian and Zhou Hongzhuan continued to compete in the afternoon session.

"I love the marathon, because when I run on the road, I am very happy," said hearing-impaired athlete Dorje Tsering from Qinghai Province.


Zou Lihong, the T54 marathon gold medalist at the 2016 Rio Paralympics, topped the podium on Tuesday, clocking 1:43:39.

The 37-year-old failed to defend her title at the Tokyo Paralympic Games when her glove came loose, preventing her from adequately propelling herself along. But this time, Zou prepared well ahead of rainy conditions in Xi'an.

"I noticed the weather report, glued and sewed the glove together tightly, in order to prevent the disaster in Tokyo from happening again," Zou said.

However, when she finished the race, there were still raw patches on her hands where the gloves had rubbed.

In the Chinese national team, Zou and Tian are roommates. Tian told Xinhua that as an elite athlete, Zou taught her a lot.

"When young teammates want to give up training, I give them some tips on how to use their explosive powers effectively. I join them in their training sessions. Then the younger athletes can build up their confidence, and their physical situation will gradually improve," Zou said.

After the National Games, Zou plans to take a break from competition to focus on her personal life. But the veteran said that she might resurrect her career in two years' time, because she loves the sport.


In recent years, the marathon has flourished in China, but for wheelchair athletes, few events around the country cater specifically for them.

"We only train on the road once in a month, because it is not safe enough for us to do so. Apart from the Chengdu Marathon, no other event was open for professional wheelchair athletes," lamented Dai Yunqiang, who took fourth place in the 2012 London Paralympics.

"Famous international marathons such as those in Tokyo and New York include a wheelchair race. Around 40 competitors register to take part. If the Xi'an Marathon includes this group in future, I'd like to compete on home ground," Zou said.

In Zhang Yong's opinion, if a mass marathon opened for them, it would not only help people with disabilities to live a better life, but would also improve China's results in major international events.

"In 2017, I had a flat tyre during the New York Marathon. Before the accident, I didn't even know that I ought to use special tires for road races," Zhang said.

"I hope that we can have more marathon events in China," the 29-year-old added. 

(Web editor: Shi Xi, Liang Jun)


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