China's Inspirational 'Basketball Girl' Gets New Legs

Business Insider

This is Qian Hongyan , an 18-year-old girl who lives in China. She may seem like your average teenager, but she has a pretty unique backstory.

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Qian Hongyan China

REUTERS/Jason Lee

Qian lost both her legs in a car accident in 2000 when she was just four years old. Growing up in rural Luliang county, southwestern China's Yunnan province, her family had to improvise.

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Qian Hongyan China

REUTERS/Chen Yawei

These pictures, taken in 2005 when Qian was just ten, show how. Qian learned to walk on her hands, using a basketball cut in half to steady herself. According to Xinhua news agency, she was dubbed "basketball girl" by locals.

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Qian Hongyan China

REUTERS/China Daily

In 2005, after attention in the Chinese press, Qian traveled to Beijing to receive free artificial limbs at the China Rehabilitation Research Center, a center that has been providing help to the disabled in China for over 20 years. This photo, from 2007, shows her receiving a larger set of limbs after she had grown.

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Qian Hongyan China

REUTERS/Jason Lee

Xinhua reports that Qian was born to an impoverished family, and that she had to accept that when her medical treatment ended in 2007, she would not be able to continue her education with her peers. She was 11-years-old.

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Qian Hongyan China

REUTERS/Jason Lee

However, Qian found other opportunities. She joined a local swimming club for the disabled, the first of its kind in the country, sponsored by the Yunnan Provincial Federation of the Disabled.

At first, she found it difficult.

"I had to give much more than other kids when I learned to swim," Qian told China Daily in 2011. "It seemed there was no way I could float in the water. I was choked."

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Qian Hongyan China

REUTERS/Jason Lee

However, she went on to become a successful athlete, training for four hours every day. She hopes to one day win medals for her country in the Paralympic Games.

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Qian Hongyan China

REUTERS/Jason Lee

This week, she returned to the China Rehabilitation Research Center in Beijing . Now 18 years old, she is ready for her adult prosthetics.

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Qian Hongyan China

REUTERS/Jason Lee

Qian Hongyan, the so-called "basketball girl," has become something of a celebrity in China. Reports on the progress of her artificial limbs make national news. Her fame has even spread abroad, with photographs of her becoming viral sensations on Facebook.

Her success may mark the changing fortunes of China's disabled. "In the past," Her coach, Li Ke-qiang, told the BBC in 2008, "people despised the disabled. They thought they were all beggars, just asking for money."

"But now, when they see disabled swimmers like these, they can see how hard they're driving themselves. And that's a start."

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Qian Hongyan China

REUTERS/Jason Lee



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