When Dong Jingping lost her leg in a freak traffic accident 14 years ago, she could never have imagined she would one day stand on the podium at an international sports event.
But this week, that is exactly where the 21-year-old cyclist from Jiangsu province was, after winning bronze in the individual pursuit event.
One of eight Chinese cyclists competing at the Beijing Paralympics, Dong lost her left leg after being hit by a truck as she played in the road near her home in Ganyu county.
She was fitted with a prosthetic leg three years later, and although she had never before attended a physical education class, she decided to take up a new challenge, and learn how to ride a bicycle.
At first, her parents were reluctant to teach her, as they didn't want to see her fail. But Dong was determined.
"I'm a stubborn person. Once I decide to do something, I will hang on to the end," she said.
Her parents hung on, too.
"I saw from her eyes how much she admired her pals who rode bicycles," her father Dong Yujun told Cangwu Evening newspaper.
"We didn't want her to feel different from the other children."
Because of her artificial limb, in the beginning, Dong could only move her feet straight up and down, rather than pedal in a full circle. She said she was also scared to ride in the streets, so just kept practicing around the house.
One day, however, Dong's parents asked her to go shopping by herself, so she worked up her courage and ventured out.
Subconsciously, she began to pedal normally.
So after that, she joined the daily bicycle commute to and from school.
What she gained most from her newfound talent was self-confidence, she said.
In 2002, Dong was chosen by the local disabled persons' federation to train as a professional cyclist.
A year later, she won her first gold medal in the Sixth National Games for the Disabled, and was subsequently chosen for the national disabled cycling team.
In preparation for the Beijing Paralympics, Dong said she trained for two hours a day for several years.
"The harder you work, the bigger the reward," she said.
Despite her success this week, Dong said she was disappointed her parents were not in Beijing to watch her.
But her father said he and his family decided to stay at home to watch the event on TV, so as not to put any extra pressure on her. As for not winning the gold medal, Dong said she has no regrets.
"The Paralympics is the highest level of competition that every athlete dreams of participating in," she said.
"As long as I know I tried my best, there is no reason to be disappointed."
Source: China Daily