Commentary: A giant leap forward for China's para-sports

  • World
  • Sunday, 22 Oct 2023

HANGZHOU, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- The 4th Asian Para Games, which will open in the southeast Chinese city of Hangzhou on Sunday night, is set to witness a giant leap forward for China's para-sports.

The 221 male and 218 female athletes will compete in 397 events across 22 disciplines. China will compete in all 397 events across 22 sports, and the goal is "to win gold and show great spirit".

Both China's youngsters and star veterans are ready to do the nation proud in Hangzhou, showcasing the nation's morale and sporting values.

Since the establishment of the People's Republic of China in 1949, disabled individuals have gained equal status, and cultural and sporting activities for the disabled gradually began to develop. After the era of reform and opening up, para-sports in China have grown rapidly, and competitive sports have ventured onto the international stage.

The year 1984 marked a significant milestone in China's para-sports. That year, the 1st National Para Games of China was inaugurated, gradually evolving into a grand quadrennial gathering for disabled individuals.

Additionally, in 1984, China sent its first delegation to the Paralympic Games, thereby initiating the "Paralympic legend" of disabled Chinese athletes, characterized by confidence, optimism and courageous determination.

Ping Yali, China's first Paralympic champion who suffered a congenital cataract, drew public attention in the long jump in the 7th Paralympic Games in the United States in 1984.

At the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, the Chinese delegation made history by winning 63 gold, 46 silver and 32 bronze medals, achieving top position in both the gold and overall medal rankings for the first time.

At the 2020 Tokyo Paralympic Games, Chinese athletes ranked top in the gold medal and medal tallies for the fifth Summer Paralympics in a row.

After gradually "dominating" the Summer Paralympic Games, China's disabled athletes also began to explore new territories in the Winter Paralympics. Their Winter debut came at Salt Lake City in 2002 with four athletes in Alpine and cross-country skiing achieving a sixth-place finish.

Every effort was made to prepare for the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics. In Pyeongchang in 2018, Chinese athletes won the country's first Winter Paralympics gold medal in wheelchair curling.

At Beijing 2022, China's delegation achieved 18 gold, 20 silver and 23 bronze medals. For the first time in history, China topped both the gold and overall medal standings at a Winter Paralympic Games, marking a historic milestone.

Over this period, China set up a number of sporting organizations for disabled people, including the China Sports Association for the Disabled (later renamed the National Paralympic Committee of China), the China Sports Association for the Deaf, and the China Association for the Mentally Challenged (later renamed Special Olympics China). China also joined a number of international sports organizations for the disabled, including the International Paralympic Committee. Meanwhile, various local sports organizations for disabled people were set up across the country.

An outline for "Healthy China 2030" issued in 2016 highlights that disability prevention and rehabilitation services for persons with disabilities have improved. In 2016, the Chinese government published the National Action Plan on Disability Prevention (2016-2020), and in 2017, the Regulations on Disability Prevention and Rehabilitation, brought the work onto the track of the rule of law.

From 2012 to 2016, 15.26 million people with disabilities received basic rehabilitation services nationwide. By the end of 2016, there were 7,858 rehabilitation institutions for the disabled around China, with 223,000 employees; and 947 municipal districts and 2,015 counties (cities) provided community-based rehabilitation services, with 454,000 coordinators.

In a white paper on para-sports last year, China said that participation in sports is an important element of the right to subsistence and development for those with disabilities.

To promote the participation of persons with disabilities in grassroots fitness activities and competitive sports, China has extended rehabilitation activities and fitness sports services to communities through government procurement.

The participation rate in grassroots cultural and sports activities for persons with disabilities in China has spiraled, from 6.8 percent in 2015 to 23.9 percent in 2021.

An open China actively takes on its international responsibilities. It has hosted the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games, the Beijing 2008 Summer Paralympics, the Shanghai 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games, the Sixth Far East and South Pacific Games for the Disabled, and the Guangzhou 2010 Asian Para Games, and made full preparations for the Hangzhou 2022 Asian Para Games.

This has given a strong boost to the cause of the disabled in China and made an outstanding contribution to international para-sports.

China will continually promote the free accessibility of public sports facilities to people with disabilities and provide convenience and care for them; consider disability sports and fitness as an important component of the overall national fitness program, and effectively safeguard the rights of people with disabilities to access basic public sports services.

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