'Beat the US team' – Chinese women wheelchair basketball players win first medal at Paralympic Games
Published: Sep 05, 2021 09:42 PM
Zhang xuemei(right), member of Chinese women wheel basketball team Photo: VCG

Zhang xuemei(right), member of Chinese women wheel basketball team Photo: VCG

The Chinese women's wheelchair basketball team won a silver medal for the China Team on Saturday at the Tokyo Paralympic Games, their first Paralympic medal. As the news of the win spread, Chinese netizens gave thumbs-up to the inspiring words of the team's head coach: "Let's beat the US team."

Prior to the Tokyo Paralympic Games, the Chinese team's best results at the Games were placing at the sixth place in Rio. While the team missed the gold in the finals by losing to the Netherlands, the new reigning champions, they beat the US team, the defending champions, twice in the group stage, to finally they take home the silver medal.

While drawing up their tactics to take on the powerful US team, team head coach Chen Qi told the athletes, "Let's beat the US team," stirring up their morale and winning many compliments from Chinese netizens, Chinese news outlet The Paper reported.

"I wanted to challenge the US team, which has rich basketball experience, and see if I had a correct understanding of wheelchair basketball," Chen said after the match, noting that "we have never lost to the US team since I started leading the team in 2017."

The growth of the team in just five years has exceeded people's expectations. Five years ago, they lost to the Netherlands by 33 points, but now they were able to defeat the Algeria team, an old competitor of the Netherlands team, the Spain team as well as the US team to finish at the top of the group.

Before the group stage, Chen told media that their goal was to reach the fourth rank and try their best to get a bronze medal. In the end, they surpassed their goal. 

Even prior to the win, the stories about the training regime of the Chinese wheelchair basketball team had gone viral on China's social media platforms.

While learning to better control their wheelchairs, the team members developed several blisters on their hands, many of which broke, scabbed over and then broken again during training, Chen Xuejing, one of the team's members, recalled.

Many of the team members are new, and some of them have never played basketball prior to training. The team began training in Beijing and Guangzhou, South China's Guangdong Province in November 2020. Training was intense and part of the training required that they make 400 free throws a day.

However, this intensive training has paid off as it provided the solid foundation for their excellent performance at the Games. 

Free throws were China's key weapon in the semifinals as the team made eight of eight free throws in the final moments to seal victory in the face of relentless pressure from the US.

Many Chinese netizens summed up the athletic spirit of the Chinese wheelchair basketball team as having no fear of difficulties such as powerful competitors and bravely forging ahead.

"As a non-disabled person, I cannot imagine the difficulties they faced while training and what kept them going. Their spirit has touched me very deeply," Li, a basketball fan living in Shanghai, told the Global Times on Sunday.

"They have indeed beat their competitor, and now I believe I can also do anything," Li added.