Gui Yuna lost her right leg in a road accident when she was seven, after being hit by a truck on her way home. At school, bullies would kick away her crutch to make her fall in front of all the other students or yank away her chair when she was going to sit down. But, today, she is a 35-year-old former Paralympian who has become a viral award-winning bodybuilder in China.
With over 200k followers on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, she regularly hits the gym and posts her sessions on the app. Her inspirational story and her accomplishments have led her to become a viral sensation in China. Images of her on stage with other able-bodied rivals during the International Weightlifting Federation Beijing 2020 competition in October – wearing a bikini and a high-heel shoe, whilst leaning on her crutch – have featured heavily in Chinese media.
Gui, who is from the southern city of Nanning in Guangxi region, represented China in the 2004 Summer Paralympic games in Greece, where she placed 7th in women’s long jump. She also served as a torcher bearer for the 2008 Beijing Summer Paralympic Games.
In a country where disabled people are often marginalised, her positive attitude have inspired the country. “It’s possible that I won first place not because of my professionalism or muscles,” Gui told AFP, “but because of my confidence and bravery to stand on the stage and show myself to everyone.”
When she retired from participating in paralympic sports in 2018, she applied to regular companies only to face another challenge: discrimination in the working world. Nearly all 20 companies she had applied to had rejected her saying that she didn’t match their “image.”
“Many people think that fate was unkind to me, but I don’t think so. I am thankful for having these hardships,” she said. “Because of this, I grew up, it made my heart stronger and made me what I am today.”