For­eign coaches help China’s ath­letes to shine

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By SUN XIAOCHEN in Rio de Janeiro sunx­i­aochen@chi­nadaily.com. cn

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.

PHOTO IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY CHINA DAILY

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

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