Sat, Mar 10, 2007 - Page 2 News List

Condition proves no obstacle to swim champ

NEVER GIVE UP Despite being born with serious physical disabilities, Fan Gin-chia has overcome them all through hard work to succeed in sports and his working life

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

"I'm no longer a Down Syndrome boy," said Fan Gin-chia (范晉嘉), former Special Olympics gold medalist to the audience in Taipei yesterday.

Fan, now 27, was born with Down syndrome, a genetic disorder caused by an extra 21st chromosome.

Although Down syndrome has caused Fan physical and mental disabilities, he overcame them all to win Taiwan's first Special Olympics gold medal for swimming in 1991.

The 1991 gold medal was the first of several other honors he has won in various international swimming competitions.

Fan and his mother, Huang Kuei-ying (黃桂瑛), shared Fan's life story with students during a speech at a Taipei school yesterday.

"I never gave up on Gin-chia, so I wanted to keep him healthy through exercise," Huang said, explaining the reason why she had introduced her son to sport.

And swimming seemed to be the only suitable sport for Fan.

"Down syndrome left Gin-chia with serious physical disabilities, including cataracts and amblyopia," Huang said.

"He is unable to see small balls, and would be hit by bigger balls if he played other sports," she continued.

However, swimming was also a challenge.

"Gin-chia's [swimming] coach didn't want to train him at first," Huang said. "Because he was shorter than most people and his muscles were weak."

The coach was worried that Fan might drown in the swimming pool, "but I promised the coach that I wouldn't hold him responsible if Gin-chia died in the swimming pool," Huang said.

The coach finally agreed to train Fan.

And a mother's simple wish of keeping her son healthy through sports eventually turned into a great honor.

In 1991, Fan won the first Special Olympics gold medal in swimming for himself, as well as for Taiwan. He was just 12 years old.

"It was completely unexpected," Huang said.

Following his Olympic success, Fan won many other honors at various international swimming competitions. He even became a swimming coach himself and served as a referee in the 1999 Special Olympics in Beijing, Huang said.

"Through facing different challenges, I have learned a lot," Fan said.

His mother agreed proudly.

"[In sport competitions] he has learned interpersonal communication skills, standards of behavior, self-discipline and how to work with others," Huang said, adding that these characters have helped her son to succeed at work.

"I'm proud to say that Gin-chia has never been unemployed since he left school," she added.

After working in a bank for nine years, Fan is now an inspector at a technology company.

With all those accomplishments under his belt, "I'm no longer a Down syndrome boy," Fan said proudly to the audience.

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