Tutors help kids weigh in on sports
A Chinese physical education instructor is helping young people in Brunei win the battle of the bulge and hopes to give the country a sporting chance to make a name for itself in the world’s arenas.
When Zhang Sijie came to the Brunei Sports School, she decided to help Md Azairal Mirza bin Zakaria lose some weight.
She gave the 12-year-old student an assignment — to weigh himself everyday at noon — which he did, reluctantly but obediently.
“He lost 4kg before the summer holidays. But whenever he spent long periods at home, his weight rebounded,” she said. “This had to change. Otherwise, he would not be able to do the required physical training,” said Zhang, 24, one of six Chinese volunteer teachers at Brunei’s only sports school.
The young boy has a driving ambition to be a golfer but knows that he has to win the “weighting game” before he can conquer courses.
“Teachers have told me to go on a diet. It is difficult, but I will not give up. I want to be a good golfer,” he said.
Wu Hongyuan, a Chinese volunteer nutritionist at the school, said the traditional diet — fried food and not many vegetables — made Brunei a country prone to diabetes and obesity.
“Although the school and Brunei society in general are paying increasing attention to a more healthy diet, it takes time for the school to make changes,” said Wu, a senior nutritionist from Zhuhai, Guangdong province.
Brunei is one of the weakest nations in sport. It has yet to win an Olympic medal, but has significantly improved its performances in regional games.
Currently, more than 100 students are attending courses in track and field, golf and football at the school.
“One reason for establishing this school one decade ago was to seek a breakthrough in regional and global sports events, but medals cannot be won overnight and the appetite for competition must be increased,” said Zhang.
“The good thing is that they are working harder and harder, and more enthusiastically,” she added.
In China, coaches select promising child athletes who are then trained by government bodies. But students at Brunei Sports School usually choose to go there themselves and pick their own sport.
“It may be difficult at the moment for Brunei to get an Olympic medal, but I want to improve my running and become stronger. It is my dream,” said Mohamad Shahriff Pudn Mohd Salleh, a 17-year-old athlete in the school.