China gymnast to get medical care, cash

Updated: July 13, 2011, 2:17 AM ET
Associated Press

NEW YORK -- A champion Chinese gymnast who was paralyzed in an accident at the 1998 Goodwill Games is grateful toward the United States after reaching a deal with insurance companies and USA Gymnastics to provide her with medical care and rehabilitation in China, along with financial help, her lawyer said Tuesday.

The lawyer, Ming Hai, said he could not divulge details of the deal. Still, he said it will provide up to $10 million in cash and health care over the lifetime of the 30-year-old gymnast, Sang Lan.

"Once again, when she's in trouble, the American people step forward and help her. It's great because this is what America's all about," Hai said.

Hai filed a lawsuit earlier this year in U.S. District Court in Manhattan seeking $1.8 billion on Sang's behalf. He named as defendants AOL Time Warner Inc., USA Gymnastics, TIG Insurance Co., TIG Specialty Insurance Solutions, Riverstone Claims Management LLC and various other defendants.

USA Gymnastics said in a statement: "USA Gymnastics was never served in the lawsuit and is being dismissed from the suit. This matter has been resolved through the insurance carriers, and we hope the settlement will assist Sang Lan in the coming years."

AOL Time Warner was later dropped as a defendant. A message for comment left with the insurance companies was not immediately returned.

Hai said Sang attended a three-hour settlement meeting on Monday where the terms of the deal were reached. He said she was staying in an apartment in Nassau County on New York's Long Island for another month before returning to Beijing, where she will live with her boyfriend and continue to earn about $230 a month at speaking engagements and other public functions.

According to the lawsuit, Sang was left paralyzed from the mid-chest down after she fractured and dislocated two vertebrae and injured her spinal cord when someone walked into the vault area after she pushed off from the vault and removed a mat before she landed. It noted that celebrities including Leonardo DiCaprio, Celine Dion and Christopher Reeve visited her and offered support after the accident. Then-Vice President Al Gore and his family visited her in the hospital.

The settlement will provide money to cover Sang's health care in China. Previously, her health care was paid for only in the United States. The lawsuit proceeds against several Chinese defendants.

"Thirteen years ago she had a tragic fall that almost killed her," Hai said. "She got her life back again. The American people gave her a second life. She'll always remember that in her mind. She loves this country. She loves whatever this country has done for her."


Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press