Hard work pays off: the story behind China’s first gold at the Winter Paralympics
Published: Mar 06, 2022 03:43 PM
Photo: Cui Meng/GT

Photo: Cui Meng/GT

Liu Zixu won Team China's first gold medal at the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games on Saturday in the Para biathlon men's sprint sitting event.

"I am very satisfied with my performance today. Although this journey has been full of hardships, the setbacks and trials made me who I am now. In the following events, I will try my best. I have always believed that life will never give up on a man who works hard," Liu told the Xinhua News Agency after the event.

For Liu, who has been training for five years, this gold medal was the best reward for his hard work. 

Born in Xi'an, Northwest China's Shaanxi Province in August 1997, Liu lost his legs after a car accident in 2008.

He felt helpless until he was chosen to try out for the Shaanxi disabled persons' federation archery team at the age of 16 in 2013.

"This was a rare opportunity for me. It rekindled my fighting spirit and was also the beginning of my sports career," Liu said.

Unfamiliar with the sport of archery, Liu was not very confident at first. However, with the encouragement of his coaches, he gradually found the right path.

Photo: Cui Meng/GT

Photo: Cui Meng/GT

In 2017, Liu passed the selection with his excellent physical fitness, and officially joined the National training team of the Para Cross Country Skiing and Para biathlon in October 2017.

After less than two months of training, Liu participated in the 2017 National Disabled Cross-Country Skiing Championships in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.

For Liu, the most difficult thing to accept was the lack of rapid improvement despite his hard work.

"I fell down in the snow and got up to continue training. My hands froze but I continued totry. The sweat on my face and clothes had turned into ice cubes, and there was thick frost on my eyelashes, but I didn't stop. Only by making unremitting efforts and striving forward do you can have a chance to stand at the top," Liu said.

According to Liu's coach Zhu Dewen, although Liu has some basic skills in archery, biathlon is composed of two completely different styles of cross-country skiing and shooting, and requires athletes be able to move between a static and dynamic state. 

In subsequent competitions, Liu's performance continued to improve. In December 2021, Liu won first place in the men's sitting position at the Disabled Nordic Skiing European Cup held in Finland, and at the same time, he qualified for the Paralympic Biathlon at the Beijing 2022 Winter Paralympics.

On February 25, Liu and the other members of the Chinese disabled cross-country skiing and biathlon team left their training base in Northwest China's Gansu Province to participate in the Beijing 2022 Paralympic Winter Games.

On Saturday, with his superb technique and strong mental fortitude, the veteran got the highest score for all 10 shots in the shooting event and won the first gold medal for China at Beijing 2022 Paralympics.

Next Liu is scheduled to compete in two other events: the Para biathlon and the Para cross-country events.