Chinese gymnast likely paralyzed for life

Updated: June 14, 2007, 2:56 AM ET
Associated Press

SHANGHAI, China -- A teenage gymnast likely will be paralyzed for life following a horrific fall from the uneven bars at the national championships, a key warmup for next year's Beijing Olympic Games.

Chinese gymnast Wang Yan, whose age was given as 15 or 16, fell from the bars headfirst during Sunday's final in Shanghai, breaking her neck and losing consciousness. Doctors said she was fortunate to have survived at all given the severity of her injury, the Shanghai Daily reported Thursday.

"The patient could not react to stimulant under the chest bone, and both hands lost their capability to move," Jia Lianshun, a bone specialist with the People's Liberation Army medical corps, was quoted as saying.

Wang was second in the Chinese national all-around competition in 2005, and her Zhejiang provincial team took silver in the team competition last year.

China has set its sights on topping the United States in the medal tally at next year's games, although the women's gymnastics team managed only a seventh place finish at Athens, with Zhang Nan taking bronze in the all-around.

Wang's injury is reminiscent of fellow Chinese gymnast Sang Lan, who broke her neck while making a practice vault at the 1998 Goodwill Games in New York.

After surgery to stabilize her neck and 10 months of rehabilitation in New York, Sang returned home and maintained a steady regimen of study and physical therapy. Sang, who uses a wheelchair, is an official torchbearer for the 2008 Olympics.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press

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