Standing at 1.93m and boasting a combination of jumping ability
and body control, two-time Paralympics champion Li Duan might have
been able to join China's international hoopsters Wang Zhizhi and
Chen Ke as a high-calibre star but for a devastating accident a
In 1996, a fire extinguisher explosion badly injured the fingers
and vision of the then national youth team guard and changed his
"I was in the spotlight when playing in the China Basketball
Association (CBA) and won the Youth Slam Dunk Competition in 1995.
And I was also the teammate of Wang Zhizhi and Chen Ke at the
national youth team. But the accident ended my basketball career,
throwing me into depression. I even lost confidence in life for
some time," said Li.
Li moved to the background and became a masseur for his former
teammates until he was found by a coach in 1998 and embarked on a
new career in which he went on to become winner of the long jump
F12 and triple jump T11 at the Athens Paralympic Games.
"My former teammates and the coach encouraged me when I was
feeling down. I climbed up from the bottom of life step by step,"
A silver and a bronze medal at Sydney Paralympic Games proved to
be his biggest motivation.
"When I found I still had the ability to do sports on the track
and field, I summoned up confidence and made greater efforts to
The blind long-jumper from northeastern China's Liaoning
Province then exhibited his newfound competence and excellence in
Athens, winning two golds for China.
"Though it was a different way of jumping and running, I began
to enjoy every moment on the field, just like on the basketball
court. " said the 28-year-old Li.
'Dance with coach'
Li is now in the Shanghai Disabled Person's Sport Training
Centre, gearing up for the coming of the Far East and South Pacific
Games for the Disabled (FESPIC Games) in Malaysia and the 2008
But a sudden change of coach has somewhat tripped him up.
"I have been asked to win both golds at the FESPIC Games. But my
long-time can could not go to Malaysia with me due to team size
"The coach is like my eyes," Li said, describing the unique
relationship between a blind long-jumper and his coach.
Blind athletes depend totally on the voice of their coaches as a
guide as they approach and make the final jump.
As Li stands at the start line, the coach begins clapping his
hands in a rhythmic pattern.
Like a dancer following music, Li then rushes forward according
to the rhythm.
When the rhythm reaches a certain intensity, Li jumps as far as
This kind of interaction is unique and difficult.
"It is very important to keep a long-time coach. The sport
requires perfect co-operation if an athletes wants to jump as far
as he can."
From time to time, blind long-jumpers fall heavily against the
ground due to poor coordination.
"We had no trust in our coaches at the beginning. I went through
about 19 coaches before Jin began to coach me in 2003.
"I think we two will work as a team until 2008. To win the golds
on home soil is my dream.
Even after retirement, Li hopes to be linked to sports.
"When I am too old to jump, I will pick up the job of masseur
for basketball players again."
(China Daily October 30, 2006)