China launches search for athletes in four new Olympic events
Chinese professional skateboarder Sun Kunkun is seen practicing in this undated file photo.[Photo:163.com]
The Chinese government has announced it’s looking to develop athletes for four new Olympic test events – skateboarding, rock climbing, surfing, and BMX (bicycle motocross), the first three of which are set to premiere at the 2020 Games in Tokyo.
China’s General Administration of Sports says it is launching a worldwide campaign, targeting Chinese people aged 13 to 25 for the new events. 200 young people will be chosen by the end of this year to participate in state-sponsored training programs.
The best performers among the group will be picked as potential athletes to represent China in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. Intensified training for the 2020 Games for all Chinese athletes is scheduled to kick off sometime next year.
Cao Weidong, an official with both Beijing Sport University and the General Administration of Sports, is leading the campaign. He said those who are selected will be given access to a lot of benefits.
"If you can make it on the national team, you will be eligible to receive an education at Beijing Sport University. You'll receive benefits and a salary as a member of our national teams. Your bonus will be based on your athletic accomplishments. And when you retire, you will be able to access further education at Beijing Sport University, or start coaching," said Cao.
The International Olympic Committee is set to add skateboarding, rock climbing and surfing to the 2020 Games. BMX first premiered in Beijing during the 2008 Olympics.
China, a major Olympic power, currently has very few professionals in the four events. As such, sports authorities are going to be looking “outside the box” for athletic talent. Acrobatics and martial arts professionals, as an example, are considered key groups to look for athletes for skateboarding and BMX.
Fan Guangping, the head of a government-affiliated sport institution, said making a transition between disciplines is plausible.
"We've seen cases where martial art athletes are able to make very rapid progress in skateboarding after they start training, even though they may have never skateboarded before. Actually, after 20 days of training, they have been found to exceed some of the skills amateurs have developed over the course of a year," said Fan.
The sports administration said apart from people currently living in China, the campaign will also target overseas Chinese, especially those living in countries where the four events are well developed.
Chinese communities in the US and Oceania will be particularly looked at for skateboarding, BMX and surfing.
Those living in Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia are viewed as potential candidates for rock climbing. Sports administration official Liu Xiaonong admitted they may have some challenges in convincing these young people to compete for China in the Olympic Games. However, he said if they decide to compete for the country, they will have a lot to contribute.
"If they can train on China's national teams, create exchanges and communicate, it will significantly strengthen China's own competitiveness in these areas," said Liu.
Prior to the 2004 Athens Olympics, most Chinese gold medals came in events such as weightlifting, diving, and table tennis, where China has been a traditional powerhouse. But to try to maintain China as a sports superpower, Chinese authorities have been looking beyond traditional “medal sports” to areas where China has no major presence but could still establish a strong footprint.