Amputee who conquered Qomolangma becomes torchbearer
Published: Mar 03, 2022 09:31 PM
Xia Boyu takes part in an ice climbing event on January 15, 2018 in Beijing. Photo: VCG

Xia Boyu takes part in an ice climbing event on January 15, 2018 in Beijing. Photo: VCG

Chinese double amputee mountaineer Xia Boyu, who successfully climbed to the top of Mount Qomolangma on two artificial legs, became the first torchbearer at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games flame lighting ceremony at the Badaling Great Wall on Wednesday. 

At the ceremony, one Chinese and four foreigners representing the five continents expressed their wishes for world peace through dance. They waved red, blue and green silk ribbons representing the Paralympics emblem toward the torch and triggering the lighting of the fire of peace together. 

"The Badaling Great Wall is the highest point along this Paralympic torch relay, so it is just like me climbing Mount Qomolangma," Xia said at the ceremony.

Xia lost both his legs during his first attempt to reach the summit of Mount ­Qomolangma, commonly known as Mount Everest in the West, in 1975 due to frostbite. "With his very life and despite the lack of legs, he measured the distance between humans and Mount Qomolangma and let everyone see the spirit of never giving up. He is a true icon. Salute," a Sina Weibo user commented.

Lighting up Beijing 2022

Xia told the Global Times on Thursday that he was "excited and proud" to be a torchbearer at the Games.

"This is my first time taking part in the Paralympic Winter Games. You know, it may only happen once in your whole life," he said with a voice filled with excitement.

The 73-year-old said he hopes to convey the sports spirit to more people through the torch relay.

According to the Xinhua News Agency, a total of 565 ­torchbearers were recruited. And 21 percent of them are people with disabilities, higher than International ­Paralympic Committee's requirement of 15 percent.

Currently, Xia is busy participating in a rehearsal for the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games. 

The Beijing Winter Paralympics will be held from Friday to March 13.

He revealed that they started to rehearse in January, and have been rehearsing for more than 10 hours a day. During Chinese New Year, they took several days off, and entered the closed loop again for rehearsals on February 6.

"Though we need to rehearse for a long time, we are very passionate and honored that we were picked to participate in the sport feast," he said.

Chinese director Zhang Yimou revealed that 30 percent of the personnel at the opening ceremony for the Paralympic Games, which will be themed on the blooming of life, are people with disabilities, CCTV reported on Wednesday.

Xia mentioned that he likes skiing in winter and that he hopes more people with disabilities can come to know the joy of taking part in winter sports.

"I am very proud that Beijing, our capital, is the first Dual Olympics city in the world. I hope the Chinese athletes can achieve good results at the Games," he said.

Glorious past

Xia successfully climbed to the top of Mount Qomolangma on May 14, 2018, becoming the first Chinese without legs to reach the summit and the world's oldest double amputee to climb to the top.

Growing up in Northwest China's Qinghai Province, Xia was a professional soccer player before he enrolled in the Chinese national ­mountaineering team in 1974.

Xia Boyu poses for photos at the flame lighting ceremony at the Badaling Great Wall in Beijing on Wednesday. Photo: VCG

Xia Boyu poses for photos at the flame lighting ceremony at the Badaling Great Wall in Beijing on Wednesday. Photo: VCG

During his first attempt to climb Qomolangma in 1975, Xia gave his sleeping bag to one of his teammates thinking he could withstand the cold but in the end the extreme conditions on the mountain took away his legs from the knees down.

Xia was so focused on the climb that he ignored the pain in his legs when it started. By the time he realized what was happening, it was too late.

At the beginning, Xia was unable to adapt to life in a wheelchair and having to say goodbye to his career as a mountain climber.

He was confused and depressed, but his passion for life was rekindled when he met a foreign medical expert who told him that prosthetic limbs could help him walk, run and even climb again. 

Xia made numerous attempts to climb the mountain again, each time having a brush with success. Once he was only 94 meters far away from the top but as weather conditions were ­incredibly poor, Xia chose to turn back.

Since his artificial legs cannot give him a feel for the terrain while climbing, Xia relies heavily on his trekking poles, which he grips in his hands tightly.

"Sometimes the trails are very slippery and I can easily slip if I don't notice it right away."

But Xia has never lowered his head to the fate. He noted that after losing his legs, he did not want to lose to anyone with a competitive spirit and he wanted to fight against his fate and challenge himself to continue to climb mountains.