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Sunday, December 14, 2014

the sad story of Sang Lan - who fought to survive !

There have been injuries in sporting arena – the story of Schumacher lying in coma and Phil Hughes passing away are too well known.  Away, Gymnastics is a sport involving performance of exercises requiring physical strength, flexibility, agility, coordination, balance, grace and passion for the sport. Internationally, all of the gymnastic sports are governed by the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG) with each country having its own national governing body affiliated to FIG. Competitive Artistic gymnastics, typically involves the women's events of uneven parallel bars, balance beam, floor exercise, and vault. Men's events include floor exercise, pommel horse, still rings, vault, parallel bars, and high bar. Gymnastics evolved from exercises used by the ancient Greeks, that included skills for mounting and dismounting a horse, and from circus performance skills.

The Goodwill Games was an international sports competition, created by Ted Turner in reaction to the political troubles surrounding the Olympic Games of the 1980s. In 1979, the invasion of Afghanistan caused the United States and other Western countries to boycott the 1980 Summer Olympics in Moscow, an act reciprocated when the Soviet and other Eastern Bloc countries (with the exception of Romania) boycotted the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. 1998 Goodwill Games was the fourth edition of the international sports competition.   This is not the story of a rival association staging games but that of a gymnast who suffered while performing.

Sang Lan (1981) is a former Chinese gymnast, television personality and student. Sang achieved excellence in gymnastics at a young age, winning the all-around and every single event final at the 1991 Zhejiang Province Championships. By 1995 she was competing nationally. Sang was one of China's strongest vaulters, placing second on the event at the 1995 Chinese Nationals and gaining championship in 1997. While she never represented China at the Olympics or World Gymnastics Championships, she did compete at the 1996 and 1997 American Cup meets and was selected for the 1998 Goodwill Games team.

In New York at the Goodwill Games, during warmups for the vault event final, Sang fell while she was performing a timer (a simple vault, used by the athlete to familiarize herself with the apparatus and warm up). She could not raise herself from the mat and was taken to the hospital. Tests indicated that she had fractured and dislocated her C6 and C7 vertebrae and injured her spinal cord. The result of the injury was paralysis from the mid-chest down. Sang remained in New York City for almost a year, receiving rehabilitation at Mount Sinai Hospital. Many celebrities, including Leonardo DiCaprio, Celine Dion and Christopher Reeve visited and offered their support; she was also invited to participate in the New Year's Eve festivities in Times Square as an honored guest.

12 years after her fall, however, Sang revealed that her fall was not just an unfortunate accident, but due to disturbance from a coach of another team, who walked into the vault area to remove a mattress after her push-off. Sang said she mentioned it when she was sent to hospital, but Chinese officials apparently dismissed her accusation, saying she had brain damage. Since returning to China, Sang became  a celebrity and an advocate for the disabled. Sang also hosted  her own show, Sang Lan Olympics 2008 on STAR TV, a Mandarin-language television channel. She was an ambassador for Beijing's successful 2008 Olympics bid and was selected as an Olympic relay torchbearer.

A few months back, news reports suggested that the champion gymnast who was paralyzed in an accident at the 1998 Goodwill Games has reached a deal with insurance companies to cover her medical care and rehabilitation in China, as well as provide financial help, her lawyer said, who is quoted as saying that details would not be divulged. Still, he said it will provide up to $10 million in cash and health care over the lifetime of the 30-year-old gymnast, Sang Lan.

A lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan seeking $1.8 billion on Lan’s behalf. She named as defendants AOL Time Warner Inc., USA Gymnastics, TIG Insurance Co., TIG Specialty Insurance Solutions, Riverstone Claims Management LLC and various other defendants.  It is reported that USA Gymnastics was never served in the lawsuit and was being dismissed from the suit. This matter was resolved through the insurance carriers.  According to the lawsuit, Sang was left paralyzed from the mid-chest down after she fractured and dislocated two vertebrae and injured her spinal cord when someone walked into the vault area after she pushed off from the vault and removed a mat before she landed. The settlement will provide money to cover Lan’s health care in China. Previously, her health care was paid for only in the United States. The lawsuit proceeds against several Chinese defendants.

A good relief for the performer who was dismayed by some cynics that the accident was due to her lack of skill ~ and after more than a decade of suffering, comes the much needed relief.   In April 2014, Sang Lan gave birth to a baby boy. The 33-year-old new mother is the first patient who suffered a high cervical spinal cord transection to successfully deliver a baby by C-section in China, it was reported.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
28th Nov. 2014
With inputs taken from

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