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  • Chris McMillan

Chinese Paralympic volleyballer spreads wings to beat the odds

10th September 2021

Feature: Chinese Paralympic volleyballer spreads wings to beat the odds

To a beautiful melody, Wang Yanan danced rhythmically with a sweet smile on her face. Without carefully looking, it's hard to tell that her left leg is actually a prosthesis.

"I have been fond of singing and dancing since I was a child. I want to stand on the stage and perform for everyone," Wang said.

However, what Wang did not expect in her childhood was that the stage where she "danced" again was the venue for the Paralympic women's volleyball team.

In 2008, a car accident meant Wang lost one of her legs and this ruined her dream of becoming a dancer. "After the car accident, I felt like I was dead," recalled Wang, who once lost confidence in life and fell into despair until sitting volleyball gave her life a spark again.

With the help of the Shanghai Disabled Persons' Federation, Wang started to learn sitting volleyball at the Shanghai Rehabilitation and Vocational Training Center for the Disabled to become a professional athlete.

Sitting volleyball originated in 1956 in the Netherlands as a combination of Sitzball - a game of German origin - and volleyball. At the Paralympic Games in Athens in 2004, women's sitting volleyball was introduced as a formal Paralympic sport. An important rule of the game is that all players must touch the ball while sitting, which makes their movements all rely on their arms.

"When I first learned to play sitting volleyball, I practiced passing and padding the ball against the wall. Since I had been grinding on the ground for such a long time, my hands were worn with blisters. At that time, I really wanted to give up," Wang said. "But I keep telling myself I must stick to the path I chose.”

Thanks to continuous hard training, Wang went from a rookie to a national team member in only two years.

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