Visually impaired Chinese athlete Liu Cuiqing wins gold at Tokyo Paralympic Games with 'twin-like' guide
Published: Aug 30, 2021 07:18 PM
Chinese track and field athlete Liu Cuiqing and her guide Xu Donling at the Tokyo Paralympic Games. Photo: VCG

Chinese track and field athlete Liu Cuiqing and her guide Xu Donling at the Tokyo Paralympic Games. Photo: VCG

Chinese track and field athlete Liu Cuiqing won a gold medal in the Women's 400m-11T Final at the Tokyo Paralympic Games on Saturday, setting a new record for the event. Running right alongside her, guide Xu Donglin acted as her eyes to assist the 31-year-old veteran make history. 

Liu hit the finish line at 56.25 seconds in the final round of the event, setting a new Paralympic record and winning Team China its 20th gold medal. 

Her partner Xu accompanied her throughout the competition, guiding the athlete using a 10-centimeter guide strap that links the two's hands together. 

"He is my eyes, pointing the way for me in the darkness," Liu once told media. 

"Guide runner is a very skilled profession that requires the guide know not only the particular sport and provide visual orientation, but also know the particular athlete they are paired with, his or her style, strengths and weakness… it is based on familiarity and trust grown over time," Zhang Qiu, a track and field insider, told the Global Times.  

The two have been partnered with each other since 2013, working well together to accomplish great achievements at major competitions such as winning five golds at the 2014 Incheon Asian Para Games and grabbing two gold medals at the 2016 Rio Paralympics Games even though Xu was dealing with a torn knee at the time. 

Their success also comes down to a tacit understanding and mutual trust that can only develop from many years of practice. 

"For example, when running a curve, my hand bends a little bit inward and she can feel that [we are on a curve]; when we approach the finishing line, I put my hand back and she knows we are near the finishing line," Xu told media. 

Xu does not only help Liu out on the racetrack, he has looked after her in everyday life, seeing her as a sister. In order to get a taste of what it is like to be unable to see, Xu often practices walking with his eyes closed. 

Before Liu became a professional runner, she went through a dark phase after she lost her vision at 10 years old. 

However, she later discovered a talent for running and determined to become an athlete, which reignited her passion for life. 

"I was very much an introvert before, but sports, they made me much more outgoing and willing to getting to know more people. Sports have made me healthy and happy," Liu told media. 

The duo's story has also touched the hearts of netizens on China' Twitter-like Sina Weibo, where many expressed that they found it is hard to imagine the effort the two athletes have put in for them to move like twins who have known each other since birth.