Paralyzed Gymnast Finds Hope in Giving"Kim So-young, perfect 10! Yes, she got a perfect 10! Kim So-young from South Korea has won the overall title in women's gymnastics!"
Former gymnast Kim So-young closed her eyes and imagined herself on the honor platform with her precious gold medal around her neck. "After all those years... after all the hard training... I won the gold... How proud my parents would be!"
Thunderous applause followed, and Miss Kim opened her eyes. But all she found was herself watching the Olympic Games in front of the television set, sitting in her old wheelchair. She caressed her wheelchair, but she was not sad any more. She had hope now.
Fourteen years ago, Miss Kim was a talented gymnast who was preparing for competition in the 1986 Asian Games. Just a month before the actual competition, while she was practicing at a local gymnasium, she fell from the bar and injured vertebrae in her neck. Since then, she has spent most of her time in bed, paralyzed.
"I lived in complete darkness for 10 years after the accident. There was no hope left in me, and I just wanted to die," remembered Miss Kim.
It took more than a year for her to just move one of her fingers, and many years to accept the reality that she would have to spend the rest of her life in a wheelchair.
Then her luck changed when she was named as one of the torch-bearers for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
"When I was carrying the torch past the White House in my wheelchair, I felt alive for the first time in many years," she said. "I could feel my heart telling me that I had reasons to live. I decided to go on once again." Miss Kim started to help other handicapped people by opening a ski camp and teaching them how to ski. She has also been giving wheelchairs to disabled people in financial need through the handicapped mission committee with money she has been collecting since last year.
She said that she felt rewarded when she heard that the 8-year-old handicapped boy to whom she had given a wheelchair was finally able to go to elementary school just like other boys, thanks to her help.
"I used to cry for hours and hours in my bed whenever I dreamed about gymnastics at night," Miss Kim reminisced. "But I don't cry any more, because I now consider myself a giver of hope, not an unfortunate gymnast. I finally found a reason to live, and I want to let others know what I know now."