《呂志和獎》第十四期通訊(只提供英文版)

    2021年8月5日

    Hong Kong Para athlete Daniel Chan has his eye set firmly on the prize and will be aiming for gold in the upcoming Paralympic Games in Tokyo later this month.

    Chan will be competing for the title in badminton, which is being included for the first time this year, to fulfil a long-standing ambition. 

    “Two years after the accident, I tried to tell some of my friends and family I’d like to be the first in the Paralympics,” he said. “Half of them thought I was crazy and it was impossible. But I’m going to achieve it."

    “If you chase a dream and pursue it in the right way, somehow, some day, you will achieve it.”

    He wasn’t born disabled, but lost his left leg after a car crash on Chinese New Year 12 years ago. After the accident and the resulting 20 operations, Chan said he was in a dark place until he found his way back into sport, which helped him to realise what he could achieve. 

    “It’s quite hard to accept suddenly becoming a disabled person. I remember at that moment I was ashamed to look at myself in the mirror,” he said in an International Paralympic Committee (IPC) podcast. “I would ask myself why I was so unfortunate.” 

    He faced an additional challenge of having acquired his disability later in life, and being surrounded by stories of resilience and success in sport helped him massively.  

    Chan’s example is just one story amongst many thousands of Para athletes, who show how the power of positive thinking has helped them to overcome disabilities and integrate into society.  

    The Paralympic Games have their roots in the U.K., when in 1944 the British government asked scientist Dr Ludwig Guttmann to open a spinal injuries centre for war veterans. Since then the IPC has evolved to become one of the most influential global bodies in driving inclusion and helping to overcome prejudices towards people with disabilities.  

    This year badminton and Taekwondo will be added to the event for the first time, replacing football and sailing, which didn’t have sufficient international reach. Some 4,400 Para athletes are expected in 22 sports.

    Its efforts were recognised in 2017 by the LUI Che Woo Prize, when it was awarded the Positive Energy Prize for “Promotion of Harmony among Diverse Groups.”

    “The IPC is no longer seen as a disability organisation but a hugely respected and credible international sports organisation that has enriched the lives of millions around the world,” Sir Philip Craven, the former President of the organisation said on accepting the prize. 

    The prize money was devoted to IPC’s development arm, the Agitos Foundation, and helped guarantee funding for awareness campaigns, education, training of coaches, classifiers and technical officials, research projects and equipment in both summer and winter sports.

    Like the Para athletes, Agitos has been pushing ahead despite the pandemic to ensure that its message of inclusion and positive energy continues to spread. For example, through its I’mPossible movement, it continued to reach students through video conferencing, helping to uplift spirits and bring energy back into classrooms, which had been sapped by the stress of Covid.

    Hong Kong will be represented by a 64-member delegation at the games, which will begin on August 24. A total of 24 Para athletes will be competing in eight sports. 

    As the National Paralympic Committee of Hong Kong, The Hong Kong Paralympic Committee & Sports Association for the Physically Disabled (HKPC&SAPD) has not only played a large part in helping to reshape attitudes in the city towards people with disabilities, but has also helped to inspire others to strive to achieve their own goals.

    One Hong Kong star whose life was changed through the Paralympic movement is now giving back to society and helping to support others as an administrative assistant in the HKPC&SAPD.

    So Wa-wai, known as magic kid, has retired from running due to back pain after a career of 21 years took him to five Paralympic games, winning 12 medals. He was born with cerebral palsy and the doctors told his mother that she should give up as he would never walk. 

    However, he didn’t give up and although it took him to the age of four, he walked. Through positive mental energy and empowered by the support of his coach, who recognised his potential at the age of 10, he went on to win his first gold at the age of 19. 

    In his running career, he realised that winning was not the most important factor. It was more about determination, teamwork and doing his best. 

    So has become a role model for many people in society due to his mental strength and perseverance. He adds “success is not by luck, but it is all about how hard you have tried.” 

    The IPC is working every day with its more than 200 members to inspire, educate and promote inclusion, but it’s the four-year showcase Olympics that helps to fuel momentum. 

    Each event has marked a milestone in raising awareness and the growing media coverage attests to the popularity of the games.

    In Rio in 2016, television coverage beamed the athletes’ achievements to more than 4.1 billion viewers in a record 154 countries worldwide. Even better coverage has been put in place for Tokyo, with organisers announcing that a further five sports would be broadcast live for a record 21 disciplines. 

    “They are very much more than a sporting event,” head of World Athletics Sebastian Coe said on a visit to inspect the tracks. "I can't think of any other activity which has the ability to pull communities in amid differences of ethnicity, belief or geography, bounding together in the way that a major sporting event can.”

    It’s now been just over 30 years since the first true Paralympic Games was held in Rome in 1960 and the movement has come a long way.

    During that first event, members of the army were on standby to assist the 400 Para athletes, often needing to carry them up flights of stairs as there was no provision for accessibility.  

    In Tokyo, four years later the games marked a greater acceptance of people with differing abilities and the greater provision of services and rehabilitation. After each successive game there has been increasing recognition and investment in improving lives. 

    Sir Philip Craven said it was in Beijing in 2008 that the IPC truly recognised the transformational capabilities of the Paralympics. In the seven years leading up to the games, the government spent RMB 1 billion to make 14,000 facilities accessible throughout China. That was more than the prior 20 years combined. 

    New legislation was passed on building accessible facilities based on IPC guidelines and the games helped to change Chinese society’s perception of people with an impairment.

    Craven explained that the achievements of the IPC should serve as a beacon for leaders seeking to change the world, highlighting how passion and positivity can result in meaningful actions.

    “By working together to fix something we can show the good of society rather than the bad.”

    As Covid rages on, the Paralympians in Tokyo will be once again shining a light on how to overcome seemingly insurmountable challenges. 


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