For­eign coaches em­brace their roles in China

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By SUN XIAOCHEN in Pyeongchang, Repub­lic of Korea sunx­i­aochen@chi­

Even with dif­fer­ences in cul­ture and oc­ca­sional home­sick­ness get­ting in the way, for­eign coaches who are as­sist­ing with China’s win­ter sports have em­braced their mis­sion.

Any spare time Bjorn Kris­tiansen can fit into his tight sched­ule with his Chi­nese team in Pyeongchang, Repub­lic of Korea, he spends on his mo­bile phone mak­ing video calls to check what’s go­ing on back home with his wife and chil­dren.

Be­ing away from home is a nor­mal part of life for the Nor­we­gian, who started coach­ing cross-coun­try ski­ing in 1994, but set­tling down with his Chi­nese ath­letes so far away re­mains a chal­lenge.

“I still quite miss them, although my fam­ily is be­hind me. My wife has been used to me be­ing away and she knows how it is to be a sports widow,” Kris­tiansen told China Daily in a pre­fab cabin — his tem­po­rary of­fice — be­side a ski course at Pyeongchang’s Alpen­sia Ski Cen­ter.

“It’s a once in a life­time chance be­cause you get to build up some­thing from zero,” he said of his mo­tives to ac­cept the Chi­nese coach­ing of­fer.

Un­der­stand­ing the unique cul­ture and sports sys­tem in China re­quires time and pa­tience, but it’s well worth the ef­fort, said Peter Kolder, a long-track speed skat­ing coach from the Nether­lands.

“If we want this sport to be big then ev­ery coun­try has to be in­volved. China is such a big coun- try that it could make a dif­fer­ence,” said Kolder, the cur­rent Chi­nese na­tional youth team coach.

With the lan­guage bar­rier eas­ily han­dled us­ing trans­la­tors, any mis­un­der­stand­ing caused by the dif­fer­ence be­tween the Chi­nese and Western sports sys­tems needs to be dis­pelled by ef­forts on both sides.

“From Canada, for me it’s a learn­ing curve. I have to learn the Chi­nese cul­ture and the many lay­ers of de­ci­sion-mak­ing in the sports sys­tem,” said Jeff Pain, coach of China’s new skele­ton team. “So each of us needs to learn about the other so we can find our own best way for the Chi­nese to grow.”

Kris­tiansen echoed Pain, ap­plaud­ing the gov­ern­ing body’s ef­fort to op­ti­mize ad­min­is­tra­tion for bet­ter ef­fi­ciency.

“It seems now you have some vi­sion­ary peo­ple around who want to change the struc­ture. It goes di­rectly now in­stead of be­tween lay­ers of peo­ple,” said Kris­tiansen.

Other than that, there seem no com­plaints in their ad­ven­tur­ous life in China.

“I en­joy China more and more, with so much his­tory and cul­ture around. I miss my three kids and my wife but I am re­ally en­joy­ing it now. I have nice peo­ple around here so I have two fam­i­lies now,” said Kolder.

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