Still Finding Joy in Sport That Led to Paralysis

As Chinese gymnasts are making both positive and negative news, the New York Times profiles former professional gymnast Sang Lan, who was paralyzed during a competition ten years ago:

Ten years ago, she was a 17-year-old competing at the Goodwill Games in New York. During a routine warm-up vault, Sang landed on her head and sustained a spinal injury that left her paralyzed from the chest down. A decade later, she is a college graduate and news media figure, a symbol of gymnastics’ inherent danger and of spirited resilience in the face of catastrophic disability.

“I don’t feel anything bad,” Sang said in an interview over the weekend, explaining that she still followed gymnastics and may provide television or Internet commentary during the Olympics. “I learned to face reality from the beginning. Sometimes, when I watch old videos of me flying in gymnastics, I’m proud that I used to be so good.”

[…] “I understand the unquenchable craving for gold medals,” Sang said. “I am against this trend. The sport should be the embodiment of beauty and harmony of the human body. We should bring pleasure and beauty to the audience, not just, Oh, they are doing another difficult trick.”

Safety-related changes have been made in the vault after a handful of paralyzing injuries. The vaulting horse, once a pommel horse turned sideways for women, now resembles a cushiony potato chip. But the changes have come too late for Sang.

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