Foreign coaches help China’s athletes to shine
A legion of foreign coaches has conquered cultural and acclimation difficulties to help Chinese athletes shine on the world stage.
As China’s track cycling duo Gong Jinjie and Zhong Tianshi powered their bikes toward the finish line in the women’s team sprint final at the Rio Olympics on Friday, a burly man in a red T-shirt stood out in the packed Rio velodrome. He was yelling loudly, his focus locked on the two Chinese riders.
Seconds later, the tension on his face turned to ecstasy. He pumped both fists into the air to celebrate when the Chinese duo passed the finish line ahead of the Russian team — making history to bring the first gold medal in Olympic cycling to the country known as the “kingdom of bicycles”.
The joyous man was Benoit Vetu, a French track cycling coach who is among 29 foreign coaches hired by the Chinese delegation to guide its athletes in 17 sports, including fencing, basketball and track and field, at the Rio Summer Olympics.
A traditional power in events such as table tennis and badminton, China hopes to make up for its weakness in Western-dominated sports by bringing help from the West and elsewhere overseas.
The groundbreaking gold in cycling has underlined how the foreign prescription is working out.
“Without him, we wouldn’t be here tonight,” said an excited Gong, who narrowly missed the same gold in London after finishing first with former partner Guo Shuang and later being disqualified for a foul in the final.
“He really put his heart and soul in this job, trying to understand us and monitor every bit of change in our physical, mental and emotional conditions. We trust each other, and that makes it work in the first place,” said Gong.
1 1. Daniel Levavasseur, France, fencing 2 2. Bruno Bini, France, soccer 3 3. Mayuko Fujiki, Japan, synchronized swimming 4 5
4. Benoit Vetu, France, track cycling 6
5. Randall Huntington, US, track and field 6. Tom Maher, Australia, basketball