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Paralympic swimmer sells gold medal to help quake zone

Source: Xinhua | 05-30-2008 16:16

Special Report:   Strong quake jolts SW China

By Shi Chundong and Wang Jimin

BEIJING, May 30 (Xinhua) -- Yang Bozun, a blind Paralympic swimmer from east China's Tianjin, sold out his record-breaking gold medal and donated a total of 30,000 yuan (4,318 U.S. dollars) to the earthquake-hit areas of China's Sichuan province.

"I have been through a lot of tragedy in my life. Maybe I am the best possible person who can understand what is happening to those in Wenchuan County," Yang told Xinhua on Thursday, with 100 days to count down ahead of the Beijing Paralympics in September.

"I really want to go to Wenchuan, even it is only for half a day. I want to hold their hands and try to help, telling them the catastrophe is not that horrible and telling them keep heads straight up and we'll make it through.

"But now I have to train every day, and I do regret not to have the magic of splitting myself into two halves!"

Three years ago, at 19, Yang was just in his prime time. Playing piano and guitar, the golden boy looked to be blessed with a bright future.

However, Yang suffered a turnaround of fortunes when he suddenly fell onto the floor, losing consciousness, while giving a singing performance in September 2005.

Six days later when he woke up, Yang was told he had to live in darkness the rest of his life. It was acute glaucoma that cost his brightness.

"When I came back home (from hospital), I turned on the lights, thinking about looking closely at everything that used to be familiar to me, but it was only images in my mind. My mom came to hug me and both of us broke down in tears, I really feared staying in the darkness," recalled Yang, adding that he is still struggling with the roller coaster change.

With the help of his family and coaches, however, Yang found another stage which is no less dazzling than his performing career. The boy is a born swimmer too, and sports helped breathe new life into him.

Having made splashes in the pool for more than three years, Yang has a trophy room of his own. 17 world titles and 17 gold medals in domestic tournaments, Yang is nicknamed "flying fish" by his teammates.

Ranked first in three swimming events in the world, Yang is now with the Chinese swimming first-string team, beefing up their prep work for the Beijing Paralympic Games. He has just set up a new world record in the 100 meters breaststroke at the Canada Open.

The gold medal finally found a buyer from Langfang, Hebei province, at the cost of 28,000 yuan, and with 2,000 more from his pocket, Yang made his donation up to 30,000 in total.

"I heard from my teammates that the quake zone has been thrown into a huge mess. Many of my teammates burst into tears while narrating the stories, and I was also overwhelmed by the tears even I could not watch the TV. At this moment, the emotion was hard to be put under control," Yang said in his blog.

It was not the first charity sale for Yang, a man who only earns 300 yuan per month. Last year, Yang set up a schooling foundation and in order to afford enough money for five poverty-stricken students to go to school, he auctioned his first ever gold medal claimed in career, which was worth 5,500 yuan.

The death toll from China's most deadly earthquake in decades, with the epicenter in Wenchuan, hit 68,516 as of midday Thursday, with 365,399 injured and 19,350 missing. The aftershocks are also in progress, putting people's lives in jeopardy.

"All we need is love, that is what I get to understand since I became blind," said Yang.


Editor:Xiong Qu