To be a free man – on the slopes of this world. That is what drives Baggio Zhong. For him, skiing is like flying over snow. Thanks to state-of-the-art technology – some of it from his own company – a dream come true again. Why he would like to meet his future self and how he rolls otherwise, he tells us on REHACARE.com.
Name: Baggio Zhong Age: 44 City: Guangzhou, China Occupation: Founder of KAILAS & Braxen Baggio Disability: T9
Baggio Zhong: A gift is a beautiful and lovely thing, and life is the best gift. So, every day in my life is beautiful and lovely.
Which auxiliary means or daily living aids are indispensable for you?
Baggio Zhong: To me, my wheelchair and accessible facilities are fundamental.
What would you like to see from society and your fellow people in dealing with people with disabilities?
Baggio Zhong: Providing reasonable comfort and safety aids when appropriate, while showing empathy in communication and conversation and seeing people with disabilities as equals, I think is fair enough.
Which assistive device would urgently need to be invented and/or improved?
Baggio Zhong: There are too many different types of disabilities in the real world. To me and people who have a similar limitation as I have, bespoke wheelchair and accessories that can fit my body and my changing requirements needs to be improved constantly or be invented when needed.
As the boundary of our life expends, we will face more and more challenging scenarios like go travel alone, have some adventures with friends, go to work in different places, and enjoy parenting our kids or grand-children etc. Equipment that can help in these situations is in short or not capable to handle the jobs efficiently.
For Baggio Zhong, skiing is like flying over the snow. His sit-ski equipment allows him to experience that feeling again.
What has been your biggest challenge so far that you have mastered – and what has helped you?
Baggio Zhong: When I just got paralyzed, I’ve realized that I cannot control my legs, so there are so many things I could not finish by myself, for example I’ve planned to reach the peak of Mount Everest, I felt deeply depressed.
But then I watched Winter Paralympics and saw those paralyzed athletes could still participate alpine ski in sit ski equipment, I felt excited. Who cares if I could walk or not! I could fly over the snow again!
I went off to Europe immediately and started to learn how to ride a sit ski equipment, from the world’s greatest sit skier ever: Martin Braxenthaler.
It was frustrating at the beginning, as I could not control my lower body at all. I used to ski well before I got paralyzed, so quickly I picked up myself from the fall and after 3 days when I first sat in the ski equipment, I could ski again, and then enjoyed the freedom from skiing down the tracks.
If you never had learned how to ski, you could also share my happiness by closing your eyes, imaging that you take the lift and reach the peak, looking down the earth, speeding down the tracks, carving through the gates, you feel the wind singing for you, you hear the world cheering for you, how exciting is that! On the snow tracks, I am a free man! I believe this is the major drive behind me.
In order to customize the most suitable and convenient wheelchair, you even created your own wheelchair brand – Braxen Baggio. Please tell us about your original intention of founding Braxen Baggio and its future development plans.
Baggio Zhong: Actually, there were several original intentions for the establishment of the brand. At that time, it was very troublesome for me to order a wheelchair. This type of high-performance wheelchair was only available overseas at that time, and it was very troublesome to order, including getting the right size or with follow-up services. That was right after my injury, and a wheelchair was essential for me, just like my legs.
We were unfamiliar with wheelchair products, and we were very nervous when trying to customize it. I didn’t even know which one was suitable, so at the time I thought, maybe I could build one by myself. If it turned out to be successful, then I could share it with other wheelchair users in China. Later, we actually built one, and it turned out to be very good, so we simply set up a company and continued to produce this wheelchair. After using it myself, I found it very useful. We gave it to some friends who used wheelchairs, and they also found it very useful. Hence, we decided to share it, so that more people could use it. That’s how the wheelchair company was born.
After several years of development on the wheelchair, it gradually matured and eventually was able to completely meet the needs of wheelchair users who had strict needs for wheelchair usage. At that point, our technology had stabilized in all aspects, so we wondered if we could add something in research and development that could make our wheelchair users’ daily life more convenient or improve their quality of life. Enabling them to go to farther places, making it more convenient or adding more features for entertainment, such as sit-ski equipment, car modification, accelerator and brake modification, or even motorcycle modifications would make a big difference for users.
What can the assistive technology industry learn from the Corona pandemic to make life easier and/or better for people with disabilities in the future?
Baggio Zhong: The three year long pandemic has taught us a lot of things. When you have to conquer the difficulties all by yourself, you have to strive really hard, to finish things which an able-body person can easily do.
While with outstanding auxiliary equipment, we can close the gap by large. Braxen Baggio company has to work constantly to transform customer anticipation into outstanding, high performance, easy to use, yet affordable products.
We need to love ourselves by applying the best auxiliary equipment we could get, to release the great power inside us, to be kind to life, the most important gift from mother nature.
You said that your life is an extreme sport, constantly climbing new peaks, always enjoying, always adventuring. Please tell us what is your next breakthrough goal or new plan?
Baggio Zhong: I still have many dreams that have not yet been fulfilled, such as diving. I still haven’t visited a few of the top ten diving spots in the world, and I want to complete them all. The second is skiing. Although I did not compete in the Winter Paralympics, I hope to take on a challenge and ski all the downhill tracks of the Winter Paralympics venues and the slopes of the ski resorts that hosted the games.
If nothing was impossible: Who would you like to meet one day and why?
Baggio Zhong: I wish to meet myself from ten, twenty, thirty, fourty even fifty years later, to listen to his suggestions to me, as this will be very interesting.
What I wanted to say...
Baggio Zhong: No limit, no boundary. Every human being is born to be free. Braxen Baggio will continue to encourage and help people with disabilities to reach out to the world.