New Series Launch I-Ting Tsai (Chinese Taipei) – Kicking toward a Paralympic Dream
Launching this new blog series, we have Chinese Taipei boccia player I-Ting Tsai. I-Ting’s story highlights the power sport has to transform lives and open up a whole new world of opportunities for people.
I-Ting was born with severe cerebral palsy. Her parents left her to an orphanage, leaving false names and contact information and vanishing from her life ever since. She was five. Given the illness, her arms and legs are severely atrophied, and she struggles painfully everyday with simple, easy moves such as eating, drinking and brushing teeth, which regular, healthy people take for granted. Her only wish used to be being able to grab food from the table and eat it on her own. Her wish finally came true when the orphanage ordered assistive devices for her when she got older. She grew more optimistic and confident after that.
Now in her late 20’s, I-Ting still has to attend a one-hour rehab session on a daily basis to loosen her muscles. At 10 a.m., a staff worker would push her in a wheelchair to the rehabilitation room. A therapist would then start pulling and stretching I-Ting’s arms and legs and she would furrow her eyebrows and have a painful expression on her face as the pain is so hard to bear. Next she would have to go up and down on a rehabilitation staircase over and over again to develop strength and balance. Finally, she would practice walking for 20 minutes on her own feet, an extremely exhausting endeavor for her. It takes all her energy to just walk a few yards.
When I-Ting was in junior high school, her therapist found that she seemed to be interested in Boccia. The orphanage soon made arrangements for her to practice in a makeshift court and she got into it in no time. Boccia is a sport that requires a high degree of concentration and muscular endurance; it is mentally and physically demanding. That is why I-Ting pours with sweat every time she practices. She practices at least two hours a day. When she is ready for action, she quickly locks her eyes on the balls like a cougar does it prey. With protective gears mounted on her left foot, she kicks one ball after another, although in a strenuously way.
Over the years, I-Ting has won many medals in local and national competitions. But she is not satisfied with her achievements. Her ultimate goal is to “beat the world’s number one Boccia player at the Paralympic Games.” That being said, she has never competed in any international Boccia event. In an invitational tournament held in Taiwan in 2019, I-Ting got so nervous competing with Japanese and Hong Kong players that she said her body stiffened that she could hardly move. Her coach said she needed more exposure to international settings. Now she is excited about her first international event: she will be attending the Bahrain 2022 World Championships in the BC1 category in November this year. Let’s all root for her!