Xu heads China’s mission to reclaim Paralympic Gold in Paris

China captain Xu Yixiao is on a mission to reclaim the top spot on the Paralympic podium in Paris. As she prepares for the biggest sporting event of the year, her focus reflects the spirit of an athlete who has turned adversity into a powerful source of motivation. Under her leadership, the team is determined to regain their dominance in Paralympic women’s sitting volleyball.

Her leadership style is rooted in her experience and the camaraderie she shares with her teammates. Having competed in multiple editions of the Paralympic Games, her team knows how to handle the pressures and demands of intense competition. She emphasizes the importance of staying calm and collected, especially against strong rivals like the United States.

“Most of my teammates have participated in previous Paralympic Games and have rich experience and a collaborative spirit. Especially in the face of old opponents such as the United States, emotions naturally run high. As a captain, I remind everyone to keep calm and focused. I set myself as an example, manage the pressure of the game, and maintain optimal performance,” Xu explained.

The preparations for Paris 2024 have significantly bolstered the team’s confidence. “NPC China places great importance on the upcoming Paris Paralympic Games. Since last year, the teams have started active and organised training preparations. The training bases, team leaders, and coaches have also developed thorough training plans.

“As the captain, my role is twofold – first, to lead by example in completing the coach’s training plan, and second, to serve as a bridge of communication between teammates and coaches. This involves promptly identifying problems, reporting them, and resolving them. The whole team works together to face the challenges of the Paris 2024 Paralympic Games in the best possible state.” she noted.

Xu highlighted the importance of continuous improvement as a reflection of their past achievements.

“Since women’s sitting volleyball was officially included in the sport programme of the Athens 2004 Paralympic Games, more and more countries around the world have participated, and the level of competition has increased significantly. Each edition has become more fiercely competitive than the last,” she said.

“In terms of experiences and lessons learned, we have an old saying in sports, ‘Once you step of the podium, everything starts from scratch.’

“Achievements can only represent the past and do not determine the future. Starting from scratch requires both courage and wisdom. We must maintain that love for sitting volleyball that we had when we first participated in the Paralympic Games, the desire for victory and the determination to work hard. This is how we can continue to improve and keep up with the times.”

Xu believes the Chinese team’s strengths lie in their robust training system and comprehensive support. “The strong athlete training system, the high attention of the whole society, and the all-round support for preparation are our advantages. However, we still need to further strengthen our adaptation to the updated international rules and the introduction of technological innovation,” she stated.

Facing challenging opponents in Pool A, Xu stresses the importance of taking each game seriously. “We take every opponent and every game seriously. Whether we are in a good or bad situation, staying focused is crucial. In the Paralympic games, no victory is taken for granted. Hard work is the most admirable quality, and surpassing oneself is the ultimate achievement.”

Xu’s personal experience with sitting volleyball has been life-changing. “Because of my injury, I felt down for a long time. Sitting volleyball showed me that my disability wasn’t an obstacle to pursuing my sports dreams but a new starting point. Everyone can find a suitable way to exercise. My teammates and I use our efforts to inspire others, including those with disabilities who have never considered participating in sports, to let them know that physical limitations aren’t the end of life but a starting point to explore new possibilities and passions. This starting point could be sports or anything else. The path is made by walking it; as long as you take a brave step forward, you will be one step closer to your goal,” she concluded.