Chinese teenager gears up for 2019 Special Olympics
Sports Scene

Chinese participants are gearing up for the 2019 Special Olympics World Games, which will be held between March 14-21 in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

CGTN's Xu Mengqi has caught up with one of them as he spoke to a teenager with Down syndrome to find out how his life has been transformed by sports.

The concept of Special Olympics was conceived in June 1962 when former U.S. President John F Kennedy's sister Eunice Kennedy Shriver started a day camp called Camp Shriver for children with intellectual disabilities at her home in Potomac in Maryland.

The first Special Olympic Games were held in July 1968 at Soldier Field in Chicago, where about 1,000 athletes from the U.S. and Canada participated in the one-day event.

The Special Olympic Games are a path-breaking global event where people with intellectual disabilities are not defined by their limitations, but by their achievements.

Li Xiang, an athlete with Down syndrome, told CGTN Sports Scene, "Sports have made me stronger, and made me brave, confident, and happy."

The 15-year-old has been training hard for the Special Olympics for five years and is leaving no stone unturned to make a mark. His IQ is equal to that of a six-year-old.

His mother Yang Jianying said, "A few years back, people who knew him would say he kept things to himself and he was an introvert. He would perhaps even avoid any eye contact with people. But after playing sports I find him more and more confident now." Meanwhile, Timothy P Shriver, the chairman of the Special Olympics, mentioned, "You know because most people assume that if you have Down syndrome or autism, your life is sad or tragic or even hopeless…We have to fight against that notion every single day."

Kids with Down syndrome can be willful and slow in learning things, but it doesn't mean they lack determination or perseverance. Li's coach Shi Zhuoying stated, "When he practices hanging, the calluses on his hands often tear and bleed. I would trim them for him, but they would grow and tear again. Some kids can't take the pain, but he would remind himself of his goal to win a championship and then he would keep on going."

Li's emotional mother Yang, however, confessed, "There are moments when I feel fragile, too."

"I want to give him a healthy and happy life. We might not be able to pursue a long life, but I hope that this different sort of life that he lives can have its brilliant side too."

Through his countless hours of focused training and in his spirited pursuit of success, the confident and determined Chinese teenager has already showcased his brilliance.