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Sichuan quake victim looks beyond disaster
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Those who pass a prefabricated classroom of Hongba Central School , often spot 12-year-old Zhao Changli bouncing a basketball in the playground in Shifang, Sichuan province.

The sixth-grader shoots hoops as enthusiastically as any other basketball fan, but he does so with just one arm.

Zhao lost his right arm in the May 12 quake, which had reduced his school's classroom block into rubble and killed 159 students.

Rescuers said Zhao did not cry after he was pulled out of the debris. Sitting by the road, he was seen supporting his broken right arm with his left one, waiting for the medics.

While receiving treatment in hospital, Zhao practiced writing with his left hand. Although it trembled at first, his left limb slowly adapted. He can now write smoothly with it.

Zhao is one of the hundreds of students injured in the magnitude-8 quake who had to have their limbs amputated.

Most of the victims have returned to classes after treatment, the Sichuan provincial department of civil affairs said.

The quake itself claimed nearly 70,000 lives and left more than 374,000 injured.

Chen Kefu, spokesman for Sichuan's provincial department of civil affairs, said the province also gives priority to the employment of those who have been disabled by the quake.

In Beichuan, one of the worst hit counties in the quake, the local government has helped 2,623 of the 7,150 people disabled by the disaster to find jobs through training programs, tax reductions and financial assistance.

Zhao has since received an artificial right arm. With it, the former champion in the school's 400 m and 800 m race can now also ride the bicycle, in-line skate and play soccer.

Zhao's teachers said he is currently the best runner in his class, although he has only one arm.

"I have accepted the fact that I have lost one arm I tell myself to be as strong-willed as the Paralympic athletes who were in Beijing recently," Zhao said.

"When the Paralympics was held in Beijing, all the 4,200-odd athletes were confident and many were smiling, even though they were confined to wheelchairs and crutches or needed others' support to move around," he said.

Zhao said one-armed national swimmer Du Jianping has been a source of inspiration for him. Du won China's first gold medal in the Beijing Paralympics last month.

"I used to dream of becoming a soldier like my father. Now I am determined to become a Paralympian on the track," he said.

(China Daily October 8, 2008)

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