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Sportsmen Without Borders

China Exchanges Athletes and Coaches with the World

New America Media, News Feature, Jun Wang Posted: Aug 24, 2008

Editor's Note: Like made in China products, Chinese athletes have been going abroad to play or coach for foreign teams. Meanwhile, the country itself used more foreign coaches than ever before to pull in medals in the Beijing Olympics. NAM reporter Jun Wang monitors the Chinese American media.

If non-resident Chinese players win medals for another country at the Olympics, Chinese spectators are not shy to root for them.

But this was not the case until recently.

According to the World Journal, 56-year-old Go player Weiping Nie told the Chinese media he very much dislikes those Chinese coaches who train foreign teams to face off against Chinese players.

Nie was regarded as the strongest Go player in China in the seventies and eighties. And his condemnation of Chinese who coach athletes overseas resonated with his countrymen in the 1990s, when a Chinese table tennis player won a gold medal for Japan at the 1994 Asian Olympic Games.

But now, most of those discussing the issue on the Internet seem to have moved away from Nies way of thinking. They say Nies comment is actually parochial nationalism. The online posts point out that that kind of narrow thinking dominated China for scores of years. It was considered unpatriotic to even criticize China. But many Chinese now feel that competitors arent necessarily enemies, that the Olympics promote participation and peaceful competition.

Jenny Lang Ping, head coach of the U.S. womens volleyball team was the main person scolded by Nie. Ping was the top volleyball player in China. She and her team helped China win many world championships, including an Olympic gold medal 24 years ago.

Before coaching the U.S. team, Lang served a couple of years as the head coach of the Chinese team, which participated in the Olympiad 12 years ago.

Volleyball is a sport that is greatly loved by the Chinese.

Even today, the Chinese still love Lang. There were constant cries in the Olympic stadium of Lang Ping, welcome back! The U.S. womens volleyball team was surprised by their head coachs popularity in China. Lang told the Chinese media before the Olympics, I hope our (Chinese womens volleyball) team gets the gold medal.

Chinese coaching players overseas and those coaching their own countrymen in China are friends, and sometimes, even brothers. Chinese coach Guodong Liu led the Singapore female table tennis team to a silver medal in the team competition at the Beijing Olympics, while his younger brother, Guoliang Liu, a legendary former table tennis player served as the Chinese teams coach.

In the womens table tennis competitions, Chinese players grabbed the first eight places, and 13 out of the first 16 spots, although not all of them played for China. Na Tang, a Chinese player competing for Korea, wept after losing the game. After she realized she didnt stand a chance of making it in the highly-skilled Chinese team, Tang gave up her Chinese nationality and became a Korean citizen so she could participate in the Olympics.

Up until now, China has not given foreign sportspeople Chinese citizenship so they can play for China. But it has started sending some of their players abroad for training. Swimmer Lin Zhang, for instance, who won a silver medal in this years Olympics, benefited greatly from his training in Australia.

China practices sportsmen without borders in another way, too. It recruits foreign coaches to instruct Chinese teams. The number of foreign coaches who trained players for this years Olympics hit a record high 38. Kim Chang-back, Korean hockey coach, Jonas Kazlauskas, Lithuanian basketball trainer and Japanese synchronized swimming instructor Masayo Imura are some of them.

Related Articles:

Defeated Thai Boxer Best Epitomizes Olympic Spirit

African Soccer Shines at Beijing Olympics

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