On first meeting Yang Shuaihong, few people notice that he is different.
He is well-defined and has strong muscles. He lifts heavy weights with ease.
Running, jumping, cycling and swimming are as natural to him as breathing.
It’s hard to believe that he has only one leg.
This is a story about never compromising.
Yang Shuaihong is a 24-year-old fitness instructor in Chengdu, southwest China. His parents have four children, but he is the one they are most proud of.
He has always been strong, ambitious. But in 2014, a car accident broke his routine.
“I couldn’t remember leaving the workplace, punching out, getting out of the door… My memory was blurred,” he recalls.
“I woke up after the surgery, struggled to open my eyes and looked at my leg… Then I saw that the whole lower part was missing.
“I thought it must be a nightmare.”
For fitness instructors, a healthy body is what matters most. The accident could have destroyed Yang’s career.
However, just like deaf musicians and disabled sprint world champions, Yang didn’t give up. He made up his mind: “I’m going to rehabilitate, and be like a man without disabilities.”
The first time he wore an artificial limb, despite the pain, he felt only exhilaration: “I’m standing again! I’m standing on both feet!”
After that, though he suffered blisters and abrasions around the joint between human and artificial limb, Yang continued his work as a fitness instructor.
In July 2016, he stood on the stage of the National Fitness Championship and competed with other able-bodied candidates. He finished in the top 30, stunning the judges and audience.
The accident also triggered other changes in Yang’s life.
According to Yang, his hot-tempered mother finally let go of her high expectations for her child, and his father – who had always been severe and dour – revealed his tenderness towards his son in the hospital. There were words said that had never been shared before.
Yang now believes the accident may not have been a bad thing.
The missing leg didn’t make him disabled. Instead, it made him unique.