She was the beautiful girl who was maturing into a promising career as a ballerina. He was the happy boy without a care in the world.

And just as happy as their lives seemed, it was just as seemingly snatched away from them.

The happy little boy had climbed onto a tractor and fell. His own father cried in the hospital when trying to explain to his 4 year old son that he would no longer have a left leg.

The ballerina with the world at her fingertips was involved in a car accident. She lost a part of her body when her right arm was amputated. She lost her heart when her boyfriend walked out on his now less than perfect girlfriend.

Ma Li was only 19 years old when she lost her right arm, along with her ambitions of becoming a ballerina in the accident. Unable to cope, she attempted suicide only to be saved by her parents.

Love and support by her parents gave Ma Li the strength and courage to pick up the pieces of her life and eventually opened a small bookstore. She even found love with Li Tao, a man who loved her for all that she was. But what of her first love: ballet?

Her lover, convinced of her talent despite her handicap, decided to become her agent and helped her develop her new unique dance. It was during this time that Ma Li bumped into Zhai Xiaowei, a 21-year-old cyclist training for the national special Olympic games. Xiaowei had lost his left leg in an accident when he was only 4 years old.

Although Xiaowei had no background in dancing and his initial reluctance to become her dance partner, Ma Li was convinced she had found her dance partner. Together, Xiaowei and Ma Li practiced religiously from 8am – 11pm daily while being managed by Ma Li’s lover, Li Tao. Difficulties were aplenty. Xiaowei once dislocated his shoulder from a fall while practicing a catch routine. To perfect one of the drop moves (where Xiaowei “drops” Ma Li), Ma Li was literally dropped on the hard floor more than 1,000 times!

After two years of training, the duo decided to enter the 4th CCTV Dancing Contest and eventually qualified for the final. They were the first time ever that disabled dancers had qualified for the final.

This was their dance, entitled Hand-in-Hand:

In April 2007, Zhai Xiaowei and Ma Li were crowned 1st runners up (2nd place) of the 4th CCTV Dancing Contest.

Still think your life is tough? =)

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