Games: Over 7,000 amateurs compete as national finalists
Beijing have qualified for badminton’s amateur category in Tianjin, which starts on Wednesday, to sleep and eat in the same athletes’ village and compete for the same medals as their professional peers.
According to the Tianjin organizing committee, more than 7,000 amateurs across the country have competed or will participate in final rounds of the 19 sports and games.
Li Yingchuan, assistant director of the General Administration of Sport of China, said the reform is groundbreaking.
“To bring the amateurs into the spotlight and let them demonstrate their passion for sport on such a highprofile stage is a testimony to the country’s commitment to further promote mass sports participation and a healthier nation,” Li said.
Among the 19 events, some are folk games embraced by locals in the countryside and cities.
Dragon boat racing, which has deep cultural roots in South China, is among the events for amateurs introduced at this year’s National Games. The finals were held in co-host city Changde, Hunan province, from July 15 to 17 and attracted 24 teams in 12 disciplines.
Fang Jincai, a 55-year-old rower from Foshan, Guangdong province, quit the sport in 2015 to focus on her family after becoming a grandmother, but she was lured back by the prospect of going for gold at the National Games. wushu
“I’d been interested in the sport since 2002, but I had to give it up because I have a sugar cane field to tend, a fish pond to feed and two granddaughters to take care of,” said Fang, who helped Guangdong win four of the six female categories in the final.
“The National Games inclusion drew me back, and I hope it will inspire more of people to carry on.”
As China shifts its sporting focus from winning gold medals at international events to promoting a healthier lifestyle among its citizens, the transformation of its traditional high-performance sporting event to an accessible fitness gala is a progressive move, according to Yang Guoqing, principal of Nanjing Sport Institute.
“It’s a milestone in the history of the National Games in terms of function and objective. It makes the event an anchor to trigger greater mass sports participation, not just a drill for athletic elites,” Yang said.
Unlike those participating in the 19 events where they only compete against their own kinds, amateur swimmers will have a shot to race against their star counterparts, such as Olympic champion Sun Yang and world champion Ning Zetao in the pool in Tianjin.
The Tianjin games will open qualifications in three swimming events — 50-meter and 100-meter freestyle, and 100-meter breast stroke — to amateurs, and those who make it through could possibly swim against Sun and Ning in their respective heats.
“What was once unimaginable is now achievable,” said Liu Daqing, director of the National Aquatic Sports Administrative Center. “I believe this will be an effective way to attract more people to swimming.”
Huo Jinghong (left) practices “Huo boxing” with her students in Tianjin University of Commerce on Saturday. Huo, a descendant of the great master Huo Yuanjia, won an amateur gold medal at the 13th Chinese National Games last month.