70-year-old grandma defies age, paraglides in NE China
A nearly 70-year-old woman has earned the nickname of "Soaring Sky Grandma," inspiring millions since taking up the sport of powered paragliding nearly 10 years ago, in Jilin City of northeast China’s Jilin Province.
Li Jiaxin was born in 1949 and retired in 2004 when she was 55 years old. Li's husband passed away and her daughter moved away to work in a remote city, so Li felt lonely.
After noticing her loneliness, one of her friends invited her to try some outdoor activities. After some time, Li was busy rafting, mountain cycling and even swimming in the middle of winter.
After years of outdoor activities, Li is in good health and seldom gets cold.
One day in September 2008, Li was strolling along the Songhua River when she saw several people paragliding. Intrigued by the extreme sport that seemingly defies gravity, she spent 30,000 yuan (about 4,500 US dollars) on a second-hand powered paraglider.
With the assistance of a professional coach, Li began practicing. At first, running to open the 10-kilogram paraglider was physically challenging for the 60-year-old. Moreover, Li found that opening the paraglider was just the first step. After it opened, she needed to run a rather long distance before achieving lift off. Running without losing her balance and tumbling to the ground proved difficult, but not impossible for the retiree.
Her coach insisted she quit after suffering too many bad falls; however, Li persisted. She even set a goal for herself: Since young people could learn how to paraglide after three months, she would learn to paraglide after a single year's worth of practice.
During the 2009 National Day holiday, Li finally succeeded, soaring into the sky by herself for the first time. As she gained altitude, the ground became smaller and smaller beneath her. Both nervous and excited, Li says she felt like a bird taking flight.
Now Li is thought to be the oldest female powered paraglider in Asia. She still wants to soar to the sky.