Young woman living a full life despite the loss of her legs
Qian Hongyan from the Chinese province Yunnan was just three years old when her life changed forever. A huge truck hit the child and crushed everything below her waist. "I saw it at the last second, I stood on the other side of the street and couldn't do anything," remembers her mother Zhou Huan-Ping. "The image of my little girl disappearing underneath those huge wheels that were bigger than her will haunt me for the rest of my life."
To save the badly injured girl, the doctors had to amputate both her legs as well as remove her hipbones and her bottom ribs. All that was left was her upper body. Her poor parents didn't have the money to give her expensive prosthetics, but then her grandfather came up with a very original idea. He cut open a basketball, placed the girl inside and gave her two pieces of wood for handgrips. Using the grips, Qian was able move on her own again.
"I woke up and my legs felt ice cold," remembers Qian. "I asked my mom if she could put my shoes on. She didn't say anything, but I felt her tears fall on my face. Then I knew that I would never need socks or shoes again in this life, or pants. I'm walking with a basketball!"
In her village, they call her the "Basketball Girl." Thanks to the internet, Qian's story became known all over the country, and at the age of 12, something happened that Qian never thought would be possible: she was given new legs! Thanks to an outpouring of donations, her parents could finally afford to buy the specially designed prosthetics she had longed for.
But Qian found an interest that doesn't require legs at all. She joined a swimming club for disabled children, the first of its kind in China. "I had to try so much harder to learn to swim than the other kids," remembers Qian. "It was like I couldn't float, I kept sinking." But the former "Basketball Girl" refused to give up and two years after first learning to swim, she won the 2009 national swimming championship for disabled children. It was her first gold medal! Qian still trains for more than four hours a day and dreams of one day winning gold at the Paralympics.
What Qian has managed to achieve without legs is amazing. She's now 22 years old and even though she uses her prosthetics most of the time, she still hasn't sworn off her basketball: "It's much easier to get out of the pool with it," she says jokingly.
You can find out more about Qian and her courageous life in this video...
As a girl she refused to be defined by her adversity and followed her own path to fulfill her dreams. Even though she now walks on modern prosthetics, she'll always be remembered by some as the "Basketball Girl." And Qian has no problem with that because she knows just how much can be achieved from humble beginnings.