MS. SANG talked while lying on a gym mat in the living room, although sometimes
Mr. Sie helped her to a sitting position. Her mother, Xiufeng Chen, who works in a leather factory in China, was preparing dinner; her father, a government housing worker, has gone back to China. Ms. Sang has some use of her arms and wrists, and was happy to offer a cookie from her own hand. ''I like these,'' she said in English, amused. Ms. Sang still has the crisp body of a gymnast. From her neck up, she is vital, fearl圝ess and perceptive.
She cannot forget her accident. ''I remember,'' she said.
Does she wonder how or why it happened?
''We try not to let her think why,'' Mr. Sie said, not translating the question.
''If you start thinking why, then it's not going to be good.''
Ms. Sang spoke up in Chinese. ''Oh,'' Mr. Sie said, ''she understands.''
Ms. Sang went on to rep圝ly: ''Ask the same question of Christopher Reeve.''(She has spoken to the actor, who was paralyzed in a fall from a horse.) ''It was an accident. There's no 'why.' Christopher Reeve told me that his horse had done the jump over and over again. It never had prob圝lems with it. Why? It was just an accident. The same with me. My movement was easy. I can close my eyes and do it a million times.''
Ms. Sang added that she believes ''a lot of this is set up by God.''
''Yes, it's very unfortunate I had this accident,'' she said, ''but I wouldn't ha圝ve come to know all these people. And I will give back what I can.''
Doctors say it is possib圝le that future medical breakthroughs could restore Ms. Sang's ability to walk. ''But I can't tell if it's going to be 5 years, 10 years or decades away,'' said Dr. Kristjan T. Ragnarsson, Mount Sinai's chief of rehabilitation, who is treating Ms. Sang.
For now, friends ha圝ve set up a trust fund for Ms. Sang's living costs and education in the United States; $80,000 has been raised, mostly in SΜall donations from Chinese-Americans. (Her medical care and rehabilitation are so far covered by Goodwill Games' insurance, and she still receives her gymnast's salary from China, which comes to $78 a month.)
Dr. Wise Young of Rutgers University, one of the leading researchers on spinal injuries in the United States, is a trustee of the fund. He signed on after meeting Ms. Sang. ''She's a very, very bright girl,'' he said.
Ms. Sang said she misses China, and ''my father, my coaches, my teammates and my gym work.''