Paralympic athlete Lu Dong (right) plays video games with her feet during the Asian Para Games in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province.[Photo/Xinhua]
HANGZHOU — As the other four contestants relished their victory in the Arena of Valor, a competitive multiplayer online battle game, they were unaware that their teammate Lu Dong is a Paralympic swimming champion, and was playing the video game with her feet.
The 32-year-old has won a plethora of medals during her 19-year swimming career. Now, she is spicing up life with a variety of hobbies.
Lu developed an interest in Arena of Valor in 2017. Initially, her appearances at internet cafes drew curious glances, which made her uneasy. However, they also led to generous compliments when people saw her remarkable skill.
"They praised me after seeing me play so well with my feet, which made me feel accomplished," Lu says.
In addition to video games, Lu has dedicated an hour a day to practicing the piano for the last three years, and has also developed cooking and makeup skills.
Her exceptional performance in the water caught the eye of the Beijing Sport University in 2020, marking the beginning of her college journey.
After losing her arms in a childhood accident, Lu refrained from participating in PE classes to avoid injury during elementary school, which left her physically and psychologically vulnerable.
"It was swimming that brought back the girl who always talked a lot," says the swimming champion.
When she was recommended to the provincial swimming team in 2004 as a second-year middle school student, her mother harbored concerns. She was told the swimmers had to live independently in the training facility without parental care. However, Lu's resolve strengthened when she saw other swimmers her age managing their lives independently.
She did not disappoint her mother, clinching two golds and two silvers in the youth section of the national championships in 2005, and earning herself a spot in the national squad.
As she has transitioned from a reticent girl to a national champion, Lu has gained immeasurably in confidence, and no longer has any hesitation about wearing T-shirts in summer, or tucking her sleeves into her pockets in winter.