April 13, 2022
BEIJING – Yang Hongqiong never thought sports would be a part of her life after becoming a paraplegic, much less that she would get the chance to represent her country and achieve at the highest level.
The 32-year-old Paralympic cross-country skier was commended for her outstanding contribution to the Beijing 2022 Olympic and Paralympic Games and spoke on behalf of Olympian and Paralympian awardees at the Great Hall of the People on Friday. She is one of the most decorated Chinese Paralympians, with three gold medals for different distances at the Beijing Winter Paralympics in March. She was also chosen as the flag-bearer of the Chinese delegation at the closing ceremony.
Becoming a Winter Paralympic champion was not in Yang’s plan until 2018 when she switched to the sport at 29 after training as a wheelchair basketball player in Southwest China’s Yunnan province, where ice and snow are rare.
She owed her success to the chance she got then as athletes from Summer Olympic sports in the province were recruited for the Winter Paralympic team.
After a period of hard training, Yang became explosive in sprints and able to go long distances. She said she was the one who fell the most on the team, but never gave up.
Yang broke her spine in the thoracic and lumbar sections and lost sensation in her legs at 14. Through discovering wheelchair basketball in 2014, she found a new lease on life.
“Thanks to sports, I have enjoyed a new life,” she said at Friday’s ceremony. “I exclaimed ‘long live the motherland’ when I crossed the finish line. I could not be prouder to win at home.