by Jaime Rodriguez, RDPFS Intern
As the 2022 Paralympic Winter Games in Beijing began on March 4, 2022 and the Torchbearer placed the torch in the snowflake-shaped cauldron at the opening ceremony, he made history. Li Duan of China became the first Paralympic Torchbearer with blindness to light the Paralympic Flame. Shen Chen, the opening ceremony’s director, said that he felt like Li was touching and feeling the entire world because “’He lit us with the flame of his heart.’” Prior to the ceremony, staff worried about Li potentially getting burnt. He reassured them that while he couldn’t see the flame, he could feel its heat on his face. When asked why he was participating, Li said, “’I want more people to look at us and see our spirit of working hard and making unceasing efforts to improve ourselves.’” After Li lost his vision in 1996 due to the explosion of a fire extinguisher, he persevered, learning how to train and compete despite blindness. He went on to win four gold, two silver, and two bronze medals across four Paralympic games between 2002 and 2012. And even though Li didn’t know how he’d light the flame, he trained for it, just as he practiced for his long jump competitions, stating that “’Although I can’t see, I want to show the world how we, people with disability, strive for our better selves.’” On Friday night, in front of viewers and athletes from around the globe, he did just that. Read the CGTN article about Li Duan’s historic moment: Li Duan becomes world’s first blind athlete to light Paralympic flame.