Olympic diving champion Tian Liang has found himself the
center of national attention once again, after a proposal at the ongoing
National People's Congress (NPC) called for his return to the national team.
The proposal to the Fifth Session of the Tenth NPC was made by lawyer Han
Deyun and 20 representatives from Tian's native Chongqing Municipality.
Titled "National interest over everything: Tian Liang should be allowed to be
a national team member and win glory for the country," it outlined problems in
the selection system for national teams.
"The country has spent a big sum of money developing Olympic champions like
Tian. No one has the authority to drop a good athlete," said Han in the
"The Olympics are approaching and China needs a great number of outstanding
athletes. But according to the recent Olympic selection system, Tian's chances
are getting slimmer."
The double Olympic 10m platform champion was dropped by the national team
after the Athens Games for engaging in too many commercial activities. His
refusal to apologize and the subsequent standoff with authorities appeared to
spell a premature end to his hugely successful career.
But team manager Zhou Jihong revealed last week that Tian still has a chance
to compete at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"The national team door is open to all good athletes. Fu Mingxia (formerly
the country's leading women's diver) also had the experience of coming back to
the national team and winning Olympic gold again after retirement. It is
possible for Tian to be a member of the national team again. But he has to prove
himself at the upcoming Olympic qualifying competitions," Zhou told Shanghai
There are five Olympic qualifying events for Chinese divers. As well as the
world championships, they have to win as many points as possible at two national
championships (2007 and 2008), one stage of the FINA Grand Prix, and next year's
Tian is only eligible to compete in domestic competitions as a representative
of his local team, but he will not compete at April's national diving
championships, according to his agent Liu Tao.
"Tian is fit but he has not trained recently," Liu told The First.
"It's been months since he last trained. I do not think he is in good enough
form to compete. He has made the decision not to take part in the national
diving championships in April."
The Swimming Administrative Center moved quickly to defend their selection
"Everyone who wants to get on the national team has to go through the
qualifying process," Li Hua, director of the center, was quoted as saying on
Sina.com. "There is no problem with the selection system. We have rules and
regulations to ensure fair selection."
"Tian was sent back to the local team after violating national team rules.
"What he has done after leaving the national team is clear to everyone. He
did not even take part in last year's national championships. I do not know why.
It is impossible for us to select an athlete who has been out of action for a
Li said they will take a look at the proposal, but will not bend the rules
just because Tian is a star.
"Winning a chance to compete at international competitions including the
Olympics is not a result of popularity or reputation. It is about your ability."