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Young Chinese take to the waves

[ 2009-10-13 11:46]     字号 [] [] []  
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Yang Yang's tanned skin and agile body show he has been exercising outdoors - off shore, to be specific - for a long time.

Born in 1995, Yang picked up sailing at the age of eight and has been battling fellow young sailors and sometimes stormy seas for six years now. As captain, he helped China win the 2009 Optimist Dinghy (OP) Racing World Championship in Brazil in August. He also finished eighth in the singles in a field of 211 sailors under the age of 15.

However, the Under-15 world team champion revealed he has set himself big goals after leading his home Shanghai Optimist team to victory at the 11th National Games in Qingdao on Monday.

"I want to be the next Xu Lijia," the 14-year-old told China Daily, referring to the female champion at the 2001 and 2002 National Games. She went on to win the Laser Radial class single-handed dinghy event at the 2006 World Championships and claim bronze at last year's Beijing Olympic Games.

Optimist dinghy racing is the cradle of world and Olympic medalists and China is an emerging power in the sport, according to Zhang Jing, the current coach of Yang and the mentor of Xu until 2003.

"Most of the sailors of our generation were originally swimmers before changing to sailing. Few people knew what sailing was really about at that time," the 41-year-old said. She now trains about 20 children from ages 8 to 15 in Shanghai.

Zhang, among China's first generation of windsurfers, didn't get acquainted with a sailboard until she was 16. She was a national team member from 1989 to 1993, before becoming an OP coach.

"Now the young generation starts at an early age. With an expanding pool of Optimists in China, I have every belief we will turn out more sailors like Xu Lijia in the future," Zhang said.

China didn't make a ripple at the Olympics until the 1992 Barcelona Games where Zhang Xiaodong sailed to silver in the women's Lechner A-390 class.

The country claimed its first gold last year through Yin Jian in the women's RS:X.

In Qingdao, the host city of last year's Olympic sailing competitions, the "Thousand Sailboards Program" has been promoting the sport at the junior level since 2006. Sailing has been introduced to more than 140 schools while summer camps over the past four years have given more than 5,000 children their first experience of riding the wind and waves.

"Kids in Qingdao are born familiar with the sea and the Olympic sailing competition has ignited their passion for sailing," said Lin Zhiwei, deputy chairman of the coastal city's sports association. "We aim at building an integrated system from primary school to college."

(英语点津 Helen 编辑)

Young Chinese take to the waves

About the broadcaster:

Young Chinese take to the waves

Nancy Matos is a foreign expert at China Daily Website. Born and raised in Vancouver, Canada, Nancy is a graduate of the Broadcast Journalism and Media program at the British Columbia Institute of Technology. Her journalism career in broadcast and print has taken her around the world from New York to Portugal and now Beijing. Nancy is happy to make the move to China and join the China Daily team.