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Special Olympics: New mom and gymnast Xing Le balances both roles with grace

Gymnast Xing Le absolutely lights up when she hears her baby described as “beautiful” in English, understanding what it means even before the translator in a video interview finishes saying the word in Chinese.

“Yeah!” she exclaims, when she hears the compliment about her son.

She thrusts her phone, filled with photos of him, in front of the webcam, swiping the phone screen to show off his pictures, forgetting that she is the star of this interview. Her son, born last July, is center stage to her – even now, as she prepares to be in the international spotlight during the summer Special Olympics World Games 2015 in Los Angeles.

Xing Le will be going for gold a second time. The 23-year-old won three gold and two silver medals in gymnastics at the 2007 games in Shanghai. Before that, she participated in national-level Special Olympics competitions in 2005 and 2006.

But this time will be her first time away from her country. And more importantly, it will be her first time away from her son, and from her husband.

Staying in touch with them, says the translator, has been her main concern. Xing Le, he says, worried about the cost of using her cellphone in the U.S. to make calls to China.

She was reassured, he said, that like other athletes, she will have free Wi-Fi while in Los Angeles so she can make video calls to her family. She also plans to use messaging app WeChat.


During a video interview, Xing Le gazes at a photo being shown of her with her son.
During a video interview, Xing Le gazes at a photo being shown of her with her son.

Microsoft is sponsoring the  2015 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Los Angeles and the 2017 World Winter Games in Austria. Last fall, the company announced a three-year, multi-million dollar partnership with Special Olympics to modernize the nonprofit’s technology and elevate it to the cloud.

Also being provided are 800 Surface and Windows tablets and 1,200 Lumia phones, which will be used to track all events at the games in Los Angeles, while connecting volunteers across multiple venues. Xing Le will be one of those using a Surface Pro 3 and a Lumia 640 XL. She is one of four athletes Microsoft is following as they train and travel to Los Angeles to achieve their personal best in the world games.

Xing Le will compete in rhythmic gymnastics, a sport that combines elements of ballet, gymnastics, dance and manipulating items like rope, hoops or clubs.

Opening ceremonies are July 25 and will be broadcast live on ESPN, which will also have ongoing coverage of the events online.

Training for the Special Olympics is always intense, but Xing Le has not skipped a beat, even as a new mom. A graduate of the Shanghai Pudong Area Special School, she returns to the school to practice gymnastics. She has lots of support from her in-laws; she and her husband live with them.

Like many Special Olympics athletes, Xing Le has intellectual disabilities, but she also has a huge amount of athletic talent and enthusiasm.

“I’m very excited about and proud of the upcoming game. I will spare no efforts in the training and wish me luck in Los Angeles!” she told an interviewer recently.

At the end of the video interview, Xing Lee says she looks forward to not only winning the gold medal in Los Angeles – but bringing it home to show to her son.

Learn more about the Microsoft partnership with Special Olympics.

Lead photo: Xing Le during her medal-winning performance at the 2007 Special Olympics in Shanghai. (Getty Images)