Chen Yawen is a disabled athlete from Henan province. She entered the Zhoukou Tutorial Centre of the School for the Disabled at the Open University of China (OUC) to major in the junior-college Social Work programme in the spring of 2015, and graduated in July of 2017.

An accident in 2004 deprived Chen Yawen of her right arm – a devastating event for both her and her family. However, when she heard the story of Zhang Haidi, who was paralysed from the waist down by myelopathy when she was five, but did not give up, she was inspired to study hard, and regained hope for her future.

By learning to swim, becoming better and better at it, and entering competitions for the disabled, Chen Yawen became deeply involved in the sport, and began achieving outstanding results. In 2014, she won gold medals for 100-metre breaststroke, 100-meter backstroke and 400-metre freestyle at the Henan Games for the Disabled; in 2015, she came first in the 100-metre breaststroke at the National Open in Beijing, and fifth in the same event at the Ninth National Games for the Disabled; in 2016, she obtained a Sunshine Scholarship for the Disabled from the Open University of China; in 2017, she won gold in the 100-metre breaststroke at the National Swim Championships for the Disabled and the international IWAS competition; in 2018, she came first in the 200-meter medley at the US Open Paralympic Swim Competition, won silver in the 100-meter breaststroke at the National Swim Championships for the Disabled, gold in the women's 4 × 100-meter medley relay at the Jakarta Asian Para Games, and bronze there in the women's SB8-class 100-meter breaststroke.

Chen Yawen continued to study despite her intense training, always keeping in mind the importance of self-cultivation and adaptability. She studied independently for the most part, but also attended lectures and took part in after-class discussions. The strong network and continuously updated course contents allowed her to make her own arrangements, and she made use of the BBS at the RTVU when she encountered difficulties. She would also download learning materials from the OUC website, and stay in touch with her teachers by email. Finally, realising the importance of class cohesion, she was active in its extracurricular cultural and recreational activities.

“One is never too old to learn” - in this era of rapid change this saying is truer than ever, and the OUC aims to help students realise it. Chen Yawen found it hard at first, but soon struck a balance among her studies, training, and the rest of her life. She had classes in the evening, and would study online, download content, and communicate with her classmates in her spare time, creating a plan that was both definite and flexible at the same time.

Chen Yawen believes that struggle is essential to both training and learning, and that only a life forged in struggle is meaningful. She lost her right arm, but never gave up. She chose hope, and faced her new reality with courage.

By OUC WeChat Official Account