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Yao Ming plants trees in New Taipei

TAIPEI--Former Houston Rockets star Yao Ming planted tree seeds in New Taipei City yesterday to symbolically encourage athletes with intellectual disabilities to participate in sports and celebrate the 20th anniversary of Chinese Taipei's admission to the Special Olympics.

Yao, a member of the board of directors and a global ambassador of the Special Olympics, encouraged people to plant and water trees and show support for athletes with intellectual disabilities in Taiwan.

By participating in sports competitions, athletes with disabilities and their family members can gain confidence and courage in their lives, said Yao, who was joined by students from National Linkou Special Education School in planting seeds.

The retired Chinese basketball player promised to return to Taiwan in the future to see how the Sapindus trees he planted have grown.

Apart from attending a series of celebrations, Yao will make an appearance at a three-day sports meet that has gathered over 800 intellectually disabled athletes from East Asian countries, according to Special Olympics Chinese Taipei.

The Taipei-based organization said it hoped Yao's participation can help raise awareness for people with disabilities.

It also hoped it could one day build Taiwan's first special Olympics center on the tree-planting site, complete with table tennis, badminton, swimming, and gymnastics facilities.

Yao is scheduled to leave Taiwan Monday.

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Former NBA star Yao Ming, center, poses with students from National Linkou Special Education School and athletes after planting tree seeds in New Taipei City, yesterday. Lin planted the seeds in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Chinese Taipei team in the Special Olympics. Yao encouraged athletes with intellectual disabilities to actively participate in sports.

(CNA)

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