Superhumans in Tokyo – part two

Paralympics are like the shy sibling of the Olympics. Compared to the Olympians, the Paralympics athletes receive relatively limited attention as media spectacles (Howe 2008). It tells a different story than pure physical excellence. Paralympics are the epic celebration of life, passion and the struggles that come with it.

Following our previous article, we continue the list of Para table tennis players in Tokyo 2020 with the superpower to rise from the ashes and turn lemons into lemonade.


Pi-Chun Lu

At the age of 58, the Chinese Taipei athlete Lu almost missed her opportunity in Tokyo this year. She came in third in the Qualification Tournament in Slovenia and was uncertain whether it would be a good idea to compete in big games again.

Born with polio, she has never participated in any sport until the age of 42. That year, she picked up a table tennis racket and decided to do something different for herself. It started as a hobby, but real talent shines through regardless of the obstacles. Not long after, Lu became a regular on international Para podiums and walked home with medals she had never dreamed of.

Determination is the key. Set clear goals and get to work. There is no guarantee that you would get the results you want, but that is not an excuse for not trying.


Will Bayley

Born with arthrogryposis, Bayley underwent 12 painful bone-breaking operations as a child to re‑shape his feet. Just when he and his family thought the hardship was finally over, he was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma at the age of seven.

Chemotherapy was tough, I went through a lot of pain as a kid and I kept having setbacks… Sometimes I felt like giving up.

Table tennis came to his life when his grandmother bought him a table tennis set to distract young Bayley from the torturous treatment and aid his active rehabilitation. 15 years later, he stood on the Paralympic podium in London with individual silver and team bronze.

These experiences have helped me in developing the unrivalled winning mentality. It is strange to think what I would be doing if it was not for cancer, because table tennis is my life.


Tamara Leonelli

Making her first Paralympics debut in Tokyo, the Chilean Para table tennis player was Lima 2019's first champion.

Born with spina bifida, Leonelli tried wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis, athletics and swimming as part of her rehabilitation, until table tennis finally caught her eyes. Within a year, she was already competing internationally; two years later she already won gold medals in junior competitions; and four years after she won her first Parapan American title. Today, she ranks number 13 in the world in women's class 5.

Desire is the most important thing to have. It is worth a try. If it goes wrong, it goes wrong. If you do well, you win it all. You need to have the will to make it work.


Their stories are more than the forehand flicks or the backhand topspins, they are about embracing the unexpected and being okay with the outcomes. After all, sport is the simulation of life. We do not always have control over everything, but we try our best anyway.

It is not their opponents they fight; it is the obstacles life has thrown their way.


Check out the inspirational stories of some other Para table tennis players in Tokyo 2020.

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