Friday, September 24, 2010

In One Athlete, Lay a Movement's Story

I had a chance to meet an extraordinary athlete today at the table tennis venue at the China National Games from Hu He Hao Te, Mongolia. He is a shining example of our future. Everyone could see his high level of skill, and his mother told me a story of change and passion in her son. Guo Kun Fu started playing table tennis at 12 after having to quit soccer due to many injuries (he is now 22). It was very apparent to me that he has the first and most important ingredient for success: passion for the game.

When left school at 18, Kun Fu's mother was prepared to quit her job to create a place where he could live and work; to her enormous joy, this was not necessary. As part of the legacy of the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games, the government opened a sunshine center in her neighborhood; complete with job training, skill development, and table tennis, making it possible for Kun Fu to take his game to the next level. At the sunshine center, he practices 1-2 hours day and up to 4 hours on the weekends. It is no surprise that his health is good, confidence has exploded, and his table tennis is first rate.

He has won two silver medals at the China National Games. His mother explained to me that he has started to understand the difference between the gold silver and bronze medals and is now determined to get a gold! His mother said the gold has provided extra motivation and she has seen improvement in her son even at these games.

Kun Fu's story has all the ingredients of our future, focus on rigorous and daily training, a powerful advocate in his mother, and an inclusive and supportive community.

Some day, every Special Olympics athlete will have this same story!

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