Sun, Mar 01, 2009 - Page 4 News List

Paralympians attend open house at school for blind

By Jerry Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Rock climbing, riding a bicycle by oneself, playing basketball and street dancing may sound easy to many, but for children who are blind or visually impaired (VI), engaging in such sports is their dream and challenge.

On Feb. 12, children at the Taipei School for the Visually Impaired in Tienmu (天母) had an open house as they spent the afternoon playing sports with two Paralympic marathon gold medalists, Henry Wanyoike from Kenya and Qi Shun (祁順) from China.

The Mini Sports Camp, sponsored by Standard Chartered Bank, encouraged blind and visually impaired students to take part in outdoor sports. It was also a warm-up for the “2009 Standard Chartered Seeing is Believing — Visually Impaired Children Summer Sports Camp,” scheduled for July. Blind marathon runner Wanyoike, who won the gold medal in the 5,000m and 10,000m at the Paralympic Games and also holds a world record, said this was his second visit to Taiwan.

In Taiwan to promote Standard Chartered Bank’s Seeing is Believing program, a global initiative to help tackle avoidable blindness in developing countries, Wanyoike said he was touched to see that many people in Taiwan supported the program.

Wanyoike encouraged the students to explore their talents, work hard and not to limit themselves.

“It is also very important that you have to accept yourself and the challenges, and turn the impossible into possible,” Wanyoike told the kids. “I always say that I lost my sight, but I never lost my vision.”

Since winning at the Paralympic Games, Wanyoike said it had opened up a whole new world for him, as he gets the opportunity to travel and meet different people from around the world.

And because of that, “I consider my blindness a blessing,” he said.

Qi said visiting the school made him feel at home, adding that he was sent to the Nanjing School for the Blind at a very young age because of his congenital eye disease. He studied there for 12 years.

Qi, who won the Men’s Marathon T12 with a time of 2 hours, 30 minutes and 32 seconds, and set a new world record during the Beijing Paralympic Games, said many people did not know that he was not very good at sports when he was a kid.

Qi said his running career started at a summer camp for the blind and visually impaired, which he joined in 2000.

It was there that Qi was discovered by a coach who saw great potential in him and asked him to join the running team.

“During the training process, my body and soul obtained a lot of training, which helped make me tougher and more patient. And I also learned how to persevere and do one thing well,” Qi said. “Although we cannot see, [I believe] as long as you have the confidence and courage to follow your dreams, and also work hard, you will definitely succeed.”

Chang Wen-yen (張文彥), Taiwan’s first visually impaired marathon runner and an alumnus of the Taipei School for the Visually Impaired, also attended the sports camp.

Chang encouraged the students to be brave in facing whatever challenge came their way.

When he was a student, Chang said he would spend half an hour jogging every day after school.

And now that he is over 40 years old, he still jogs with his coach every morning.

“Anything is possible if you are willing to work hard for it,” Chang said.

Although the visually impaired and blind students spoke different languages, simple encouragements such as “You’re strong,” “Run! You beat them all!” and “Good” made them smile as they rode tandem bicycles and played ball.

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