'Basketball girl' proves herself in swimming pool

Qian Hongyan prepares for takeoff at the women's 100m breaststroke SB5 final in the 11th National Games for Persons with Disabilities held in Xi'an, Shaanxi province on Oct 23, 2021. [Photo/China Youth Daily]Qian Hongyan waited on the starting block, supporting herself using her hands and torso. When the starting signal sounded, Qian pushed herself in. She clocked 1:51.96 and won the silver medal in the women's 100-meter breaststroke SB5 final in the 11th National Games for Persons with Disabilities held in Xi'an, Shaanxi province.
Qian, from Luliang of Yunnan province, lost both legs in a traffic accident when she was 4 years old. Since then, she became well-known for moving around while balanced on an orange ball, earning her the nickname "basketball girl".
Qian's enthusiasm for swimming dates back to 2007, when she was invited by the local disabled people's federation to watch the 2008 National Paralympic Games in Kunming, capital of Yunnan.
"Watching the players swimming, I thought to myself, 'Could I become one of them?'" Qian said.
At 11 years old, she joined the provincial swimming team for people with disabilities.
However, without legs, it was difficult for Qian to keep her balance in water.
"Swimming without legs is like steering a boat without a rudder. I tended to sway due to a poor sense of direction," Qian said.
To help her overcome the hurdle, her coach devised a tailor-made training plan for her.
Every day, she practiced for at least four hours. She made strenuous efforts to enhance her arm strength and balance.
It took her some time to get used to the water, but once she did Qian found swimming was almost second nature.
In 2009, she won three gold medals in the provincial contests in Yunnan, as well as one gold medal and two silvers at national events.
In the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games, she placed ninth in the 100m breaststroke.
"I like swimming. It changed my life and helped me see many wonderful things," she said in an interview.
Qian now works for the Luliang disabled people's federation. She s

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