Tue, 02 Mar 2021

Wang Quanli, a 65-year-old railway worker, found his new life on ice 35 years after losing both his legs and three fingers in Inner Mongolia, China.

HOHHOT, China, Jan. 26 (Xinhua) -- The Greater Khingan Mountains in Inner Mongolia is the coldest region in China during winter, with temperature dipping as low as 40 degrees below zero. In the stadiums of Yakeshi, a city of ice and snow, Wang Quanli has become the brightest star on the ice rink.

"Wang has come here every single day this winter, which is admirable," says Zhang Jian, a local skating coach. "He has become one of the best among the elderly amateurs, so that non-professionals could hardly tell he's a double amputee."

"Do your feet feel cold? Because mine don't!" Wang grins as he stops to catch his breath. "I'm never mad at those people who call me 'cripple'. Only the unconfident tend to deny their physical inadequacy."

"He's always this optimistic. We've never seen him worried," says Wang's friend.

65-year-old Wang used to be a railway worker. Two incidents 35 years ago led to the loss of both legs and three fingers, which marked the beginning of the darkest moments of his life.

"I stayed in hospital for two and a half years and another year crawling at home," says Wang. "It made me feel hopeless."

Not until the fifth year after his double amputation did Wang realize that he should try to get on with life. As he finally pulled himself together, Wang put on prosthetic legs that weighted 16kg each. After years of exercise, Wang can not only walk like normal, but also do sports such as cycling.

"Life lies in sports. Just look at me. I don't have any problems except that I don't have legs," Wang admits, adding that what stops disabled people from going out and doing sports is nothing physical, but rather psychological - self esteem. "You wouldn't die without legs. But you wouldn't live either if you give up on yourself."

In November 2019, Wang gained enough courage to walk on ice, attach blades to his prosthetics, and try the sport he had been longing for - ice skating.

While many able-bodied people can learn ice skating without much effort, Wang had to try his hardest. "I couldn't stand at the beginning. I would stand, slip and fall. I can't remember how many times I fell," Wang says.

As technology has developed, prosthetics are much lighter than before. However, both Wang's legs still weigh 12kg together. "It hurt a lot as first but now it's getting better. My legs became calloused," Wang says.

Wang tells reporters that he has become fitter since he took up ice skating. His blood pressure is under control and he doesn't get sick or tired easily.

"Spring arrives relatively late here. I would still go skating on the river when the ice rinks are closed," he says. "I could skate until the end of March when the water starts to flow beneath the ice." As it gets warm, Wang turns to roller skating instead and counts down the days until next winter.

"I have two goals. One is to skate until I am 80 years old," Wang says. "The other is to take part in skating competitions. The result doesn't really matter. What matters more is to learn skills and techniques from the best."

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