A young girl’s purpose of building a future for herself despite losing both her legs in a tragic accident has become an inspirational story not only for the disabled people of the world but for all individuals everywhere. Qian Hongyan, from Yunnan, southwest China was on top of local and international headlines in 2005 when she was photographed walking with the assistance of a basketball. Qian Hongyan who is also commonly known as ‘basketball girl’ lost her legs in a tragic accident that occurred in 2002 at a tender age of 4 years old.
Growing up in Yunnan, it was not easy to find the right walking aid for Qian in the rural town after doctors were forced to amputate her legs, so her parents had to improvise and get creative. Her parent’s meager earnings that they acquired from their silk farm were not sufficient to fit Qian with prostheses. As a result, Qian’s grandfather came up with the brilliant idea to cut a basketball in half, which would act as Qian’s lower body. She learned how to use her hands to walk first then, later on, she began using the split ball as a way to steady herself.
Owing to the international fame Qian had garnered from the photographs, which had now gone viral, Qian traveled to Beijing under the sponsorship of donors and well-wishers to have a pair of prosthetic legs fitted. Every step of her journey received international attention in a country where disability is an issue commonly swept under the rug.
In 2007, Qian received donations that allowed her to attend and complete primary school. However, her family was unable to sponsor her education past the age of 11. So she returned to Yunnan, where she set about making plans for her future. Rather than get distraught and dismayed, Qian flung into action and joined the local swimming club dedicated to people with disabilities known as South of the Cloud.
At first, her amputation made it hard for her to learn how to swim. She struggled to float in water and swim in one direction, but with determination and hard work, Qian consequently managed to perfect her strokes. Within a short time, she begun winning medals at local swim meets and in 2009, Qian was back in the limelight again after she won a gold medal and two silvers at the Chinese National Paralympics Swimming Competition. Qian’s story continues to inspire individuals from all parts of the world because hers is a story of resolve and dedication in the face of hardship.