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Wheelchair basketball team on the roof of the world

2019-03-15 15:23:00Xinhua

Under the warm sun of March, a close basketball game attracts a large audience at the outskirts of Lhasa, with players dribbling, shooting, passing, stealing and rebounding - in their wheelchairs.

"Dash! Deyang!" The audience gets excited and chants out loud. The 21-year-old girl in blue wear, rushes her wheelchair through the court after getting a pass, and scores with a lay-up.

Born in 1998, Deyang is the youngest member in her team. For five years, every weekend after lunch, she has played basketball with her teammates on this court, 3,700 meters above sea level, in suburban Lhasa, capital of southwest China's Tibet Autonomous Region.

Deyang suffers from polio, and cannot stand or walk without a crutch. She thought her life was hopeless, until a friend introduced her to Lhasa's wheelchair basketball team.

"When shooting from a wheelchair, you raise your head, and then you see a bigger sky."

It took Deyang two years before she could shoot a ball from her wheelchair reaching the height of the basket. She is now a lead player of the team.

Compared with sitting still at home, Deyang is happy that she can play the game. "Every part of my body aches each time I play. But I like the pain. It feels like my body is awakened," she said.

Like every player, Deyang likes watching professional basketball games. She is a fan of NBA star Stephen Curry and Chinese player Yi Jianlian.

The Lhasa wheelchair basketball team has 25 members, with six female players. Outside the court, they are chefs, secretaries and Thangka painters. Actually, 67.7 percent of Tibet's handicapped population have jobs.

Embroider designer Guo Bo came from Luzhou City of east China's Anhui Province, he joined the team in 2016, and has been fulfilled ever since.

"I was nervous at the beginning, but everybody has been kind to me. I enjoy the time with my teammates every week. I don't feel lonely any more," Guo said.

"For us, playing is more important than winning," said Dainzin, captain of the team. "Playing at such a high altitude requires extra effort, and that effort defines us."

The highlight for the wheelchair basketball team was in 2018, when they performed during the halftime break of a game in China's Men's National Basketball League in Lhasa.

"We hope we could have more matches with teams from other provinces," Dainzin said. "So more people in similar situations can join the game and enjoy the fun."

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