Search for ‘ex­treme’ Olympic ath­letes go­ing global

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - FRONT PAGE - By SUN XIAOCHEN sunx­i­aochen@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Gear­ing up for four new events at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, China’s top sports body is hop­ing to draft over­seas ath­letes of Chi­nese ori­gin to rep­re­sent their moth­er­land in ar­eas where China lacks ath­letic prow­ess.

With­out enough tal­ent in surf­ing, climb­ing, skate­board­ing and BMX freestyle rid­ing, four sports added for the Tokyo Games, the Gen­eral Ad­min­is­tra­tion of Sport of China has launched a pro­gres­sive tal­ent se­lec­tion pro­gram to iden­tify and de­velop ath­letes from home and abroad.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion has formed a lead­ing group with the four re­spec­tive sport­ing bod­ies and Bei­jing Sport Univer­sity to run the pro­gram, which opened an on­line reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem on Mon­day to re­ceive ap­pli­ca­tions from Chi­nese tal­ent at home, for­eign ath­letes of Chi­nese an­ces­try and Chi­nese cit­i­zens liv­ing abroad.

On­line reg­is­tra­tion on the univer­sity’s web­site will be open through Aug 31, fol­lowed by an au­di­tion and two rounds of qual­i­fi­ca­tion tests with a two-month train­ing camp to even­tu­ally se­lect 50 ath­letes for each of the sports by the end of this year.

An in­ter­na­tional ex­perts panel con­sist­ing of coaches, phys­i­cal train­ers, nu­tri­tion­ists and psy­chol­o­gists with ex­per­tise in the four sports, which are cur­rently un­der­de­vel­oped in China, will as­sess and guide the reg­is­trants.

The pro­gram will reach out to coun­tries with strengths in such “ex­treme sports”, such as the United States, Aus­tralia and Brazil, to search for es­tab­lished tal­ent with Chi­nese ori­gins. It would at­tract them to rep­re­sent China with stipends and poli­cies on na­tion­al­ity-trans­fer pro­ce­dures if nec­es­sary, ac­cord­ing to the lead­ing group.

“Due to the lack of tal­ent in these niche sports in China, it is the short­cut that we have to take to pre­pare for Tokyo in such a short pe­riod of time,” said Cao Wei­dong, direc­tor of the lead­ing group and Party chief of Bei­jing Sport Univer­sity.

“The re­form also is be­ing im­ple­mented by over­haul­ing the tra­di­tional ath­letic tal­ent draft­ing sys­tem and by ex­pand­ing it to the grass­roots and ex­tend­ing its reach over­seas.”

It in­tends to ex­pand the na­tion’s Olympic prow­ess be­yond tra­di­tional strong sports in­clud­ing ta­ble ten­nis, bad­minton and div­ing.

One ex­am­ple is the Chi­nese Ice Hockey As­so­ci­a­tion or­ga­niz­ing try­out camps in the Cana­dian ci­ties of Toronto and Van­cou­ver in June to se­lect young play­ers of Chi­nese an­ces­try to join the na­tional pro­gram through nat­u­ral­iza­tion for the 2022 Bei­jing Win­ter Olympics.

“To chan­nel over­seas tal­ent to the na­tional sys­tem, with sup­port in pol­icy and logistics, is an ex­per­i­ment of great sig­nif­i­cance to im­prove our rel­a­tively weak sports quickly," said Liu Xiaonong, direc­tor of the ath­letic depart­ment of sports ad­min­is­tra­tion.

How­ever, per­suad­ing some ex­cel­lent over­seas tal­ent to aban­don for­eign cit­i­zen­ship to be el­i­gi­ble to rep­re­sent China re­mains a chal­lenge, given that China doesn’t ac­cept dual cit­i­zen­ship, ob­servers said.

“Still, strong sup­port within China’s State-run sports sys­tem will ap­peal to a cer­tain group of over­seas Chi­nese who couldn't join the main­stream ath­letic sys­tems in their adopted coun­tries," said Zhang Bing, a sports so­ci­ol­ogy ex­pert at Ts­inghua Univer­sity.

PHO­TOS BY CHINA DAILY, XINHUA AND GETTY IM­AGES

New events that will be in­tro­duced at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics are BMX freestyle rid­ing, skate­board­ing, surf­ing and climb­ing.

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