China’s sports goals start at grass­roots

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By DONG LESHUO in Bal­ti­more leshuodong@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

China is see­ing a surge in sports par­tic­i­pa­tion, and maybe some­day it will have an Olympic swim­mer who can strive for the suc­cess of Amer­i­can swim­ming leg­end Michael Phelps.

Phelps was on hand at Un­der Armour (UA) head­quar­ters in Bal­ti­more on Tues­day to pro­mote a new com­mer­cial he has made with the US sports ap­parel maker.

Phelps said he is ready for the up­com­ing Rio 2016 Sum­mer Olympics.

“I’m not wor­ried about any­thing in Brazil. We’re happy with how things have been go­ing in train­ing and prepa­ra­tions,” he said. “I tried to make sure that I’m 100 per­cent pre­pared. The re­sults speak for them­selves.”

Phelps, who won eight gold medals at the 2008 Bei­jing Olympics, is the all-time leader in Olympic gold medals with 18. He also has the most medals over­all, with 22.

Phelps said that “with­out ques­tion” Rio will be his last com­pe­ti­tion.

As for China’s swim­mers, Li Zhuhao, born in 1999, is one of the most promis­ing. Li broke the ju­nior world record in the 200-me­ter but­ter­fly with a time of 1:55.52 in Septem­ber.

Phelps’ best in that event was 1:51.51 in 2009, while he was 24.

China’s Ning Ze­tao, who won the gold medal in the men’s 100-me­ter freestyle at the 2015 World Aquat­ics Cham­pi­onships in Kazan, Rus­sia, has a record of 47.84, 0.09 sec­onds ahead of Cameron McEvoy of Aus­tralia, who fin­ished se­cond.

Phelps turned in a 47.51 in the 4-by-100 me­ter freestyle re­lay in the 2008 Olympics; Ning’s per­sonal best in 100 me­ters is 47.65 in the 2014 Chi­nese Na­tional Swim­ming Cham­pi­onships.

Be­sides swim­ming, China has shown a bur­geon­ing in­ter­est in sports ac­tiv­ity in gen­eral.

“Marathons are huge right now; ur­ban run clubs are pop­u­lar,” said Adri­enne Lofton, se­nior VP of global brand mar­ket­ing at UA.

UA plans to open 100 new stores in China by year-end, Lofton said.

Kevin Ha­ley, UA pres­i­dent of prod­ucts and in­no­va­tion, also has no­ticed a change in the pas­sion for sports in China.

Ha­ley no­ticed dur­ing a trip to China in 2008 that “if you went to a gym, a lot of times you would see ex­pats or peo­ple from the ho­tel, where now to­day, in the past four to five years, it’s un­be­liev­able the tran­si­tions that are tak­ing place.”

“It’s fairly well-known that it comes from two di­rec­tions,” he said. “One is the nat­u­ral in­ter­est (in sports) as (part of an ac­tive) and healthy life­style.

“You also have the govern­ment say­ing that this is some­thing (it is) in­ter­ested in in­vest­ing in,” he said.

DONG LESHUO / CHINA DAILY

Michael Phelps (cen­ter), the Amer­i­can swim­mer who has the most medals (22, 18 of those gold) of any Olympian, talks about his train­ing for his last splash in the Rio 2016 Sum­mer Olympics. Keenan Robin­son (left), Phelps’ strength coach, and Evan Brady, a cat­e­gory man­ager of Olympics and ten­nis at Un­der Armour, joined Phelps at the com­pany in Bal­ti­more on Tues­day.

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