Teenage unicyclists start charity fundraising tour

AROUND TAIWAN::The 16 students have spent the past six months training for the trip, starting with the basics of learning how to ride a unicycle, then learning stunts

By Tsai Shu-yuan and Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter, with staff writer

Fri, Jun 28, 2013 - Page 3

A group of special education students yesterday began a round-the-island unicycle tour to raise money for charity and showcase their accomplishments.

The 16 teenagers from the National Taichung Special Education School in Greater Taichung have either autism, Down syndrome, Tourette syndrome or other disorders.

Greater Taichung Deputy Mayor Tsai Ping-kun (蔡炳坤) presented protective amulets from the Dajia Matsu Temple to each team member on Wednesday to protect them on their 23-day trip.

The students began training for the journey six months ago. They said it was very difficult at first because riding a unicycle requires good balance, coordination and strength.

The challenge was greater for them because most have difficulty concentrating due to attention deficit problems.

They did physical conditioning in the morning and practiced riding in the afternoon. The students said they fell a lot at first, bruising their legs. Gradually, they got the hang of the unicycle and went on to learn complicated dance moves.

They also learned to dribble a basketball and go for a lay-up while riding a unicycle, to “dance” in pairs and perform group dances while waving colored light rods. The team also learned how to hula hoop, skip rope, perform the “leaping fox” move over wooden boards and other acrobatic feats on the cycles.

For the highlight of their show, which is their most difficult stunt, they don the heavy — up to 20kg — costumes of Nezha (哪吒), also known as Santaizi (the Third Prince, 三太子), and other popular Taiwanese Taoist deities.

“It was tough to learn the stunts. My buns were burning with pain during the daily practice, but to fulfill our dream, all the sacrifice was worth it,” team member Chang Yuan-mi (張元蜜) said.