'Sunshine Boy' – Wheelchair fencer Li Hao wins Team China’s first gold medal at Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games
Published: Aug 26, 2021 05:23 PM
Li Hao, a 27-year-old Chinese wheelchair fencer. Photo: Sina Weibo

Li Hao, a 27-year-old Chinese wheelchair fencer. Photo: Sina Weibo

Li Hao, a 27-year-old wheelchair fencer, won Team China its first gold medal at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games on Wednesday. Optimistic and dedicated to sports despite losing his right leg at the age of 2, the gold medalist's life story has touched Chinese netizens, inspiring them to give him the nickname "Sunshine Boy." 

During Wednesday's match, Li defeated Ukrainian athlete Artem Manko 15-12 in the final competition of the men's sabre individual category A. 

This marked Li's Paralympic debut. He said he had never expected to win the top laurel, and he would have been content with just entering the semifinals, or even better to pin down a silver or a bronze. 

Behind Li's light-hearted mentality is the athlete's hard work and dedication to his sport. Before the Tokyo Paralympics, he was seen spending most of his days preparing for the Games and appeared to be "obsessive-compulsive" during practices. 

He was described by his roommate Yan Qing as a person with strong self-discipline. "If one of his moves is not up to his standard, then he will repeat practicing it over and over again," Yan told media.   

"His is very self-disciplined, and he takes training seriously." 

However, the very serious athlete has a different side outside of practice. In everyday life, Li is an optimistic young man with a cheerful personality who can light up the dull social atmosphere and make people laugh.  

After a photo of Li showing a bright smile while holding his gold medal began making the rounds on social media, Chinese netizens began calling him a "Sunshine Boy," saying that they hope his optimistic mentality can encourage more disabled people to pursue their dreams. 

"Even though I'm visually impaired, I'm encouraged by him as he proves that we disabled people are not flawed, but just special, and we are capable too," said a netizen on Sina Weibo. 

"His performance proves that we can win over the fate, we are capable in coping with life struggles, sometimes even more capable than people who never taste life's bitterness." Zhu Jin, a sports fan who is also disabled, told the Global Times on Thursday. 

Born in 1994 in Huaying, Southwest China's Sichuan Province, Li originally aimed to become a swimmer before his talent in fencing was discovered. 

Including Li's gold, a total of four golds and two bronze medals (including men and women) were won by the Chinese wheelchair fencing team.