China has just topped the Paralympics medal rankings with a record haul of golds, 43 ahead of its nearest rival, the UK. The US team didn’t even make the top three, trailing the Ukraine in fourth place.
Even so, media interest in the 11-day event was limited in China, with only an hour’s coverage devoted to it each day compared to round the clock footage of last month’s Rio Olympiad (featuring athletes without disabilities). “This sharp contrast underlines the inadequate awareness and care that the disabled receive in China. The nation is home to 85 million such people, but to most Chinese, the handicapped constitute an invisible community separate from the able-bodied,” complained an opinion piece in the Global Times.
The BBC offered a more positive tone, congratulating the government on investing in thousands of fitness instructors for the disabled since the Beijing Olympics.
But athletes from other nations say that Chinese paralympians dominate the medal rankings due to the sheer number of disabled athletes and because the state hands out meaningful bonuses to winners. A favourite star for Chinese netizens at the games was the swimmer Xu Qing. Nicknamed The Shark because of a tattoo on his back, he was disabled by a car accident at the age of six. But Xu won three gold medals at the 2008 Games in Beijing, four more in London and another three in Rio this year. “Ten golds! You are our hero,” an admirer exclaimed on Weibo.
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