At Beijing Physical Culture and Sports University stadium, the hall echoed with light music and shouting from an elderly European woman. A dozen slender Chinese children in gym suits were practicing basic gymnastic movements by a long beam. Among them, a little blonde acted out the European coach's instructions for her Chinese peers.
On the side of the floor sat many Chinese coaches taking notes and recording the training session with video cameras.
This is the annual one-month training camp for Chinese young gymnasts and coaches. It aims to find promising talents for the 2008 Beijing Olympics and provide an opportunity for Chinese coaches to learn advanced training methods from European experts, said Xie Ying, an official from the Chinese Rhythmic Gymnastics Association.
The camp, which started February 27, attracted 150 gymnasts born between 1990 and 1992 and their coaches. After three rounds of tests and selections, only 27 remain for the last exam. Half of them will make the national reserve force for the 2008 Olympics. "We look forward to a breakthrough at the 2008 Olympics,'' Xie said. Although one of the world powerhouses in athletic gymnastics, China lags far behind the world in rhymic gymnastics. In individual competitions, Chinese gymnasts have never reached the last 15, and no Chinese qualified for the Sydney Olympics.
Group performance is much better than individuals, with China finishing as runner-up in the group multiple competition at the 1987 World Championships and in fifth place at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. The gap between the little Ukrainian blonde and her Chinese friends is stunning. Compared with the exact and graceful movements of the 13-year-old Ukrainian girl, the group following her lacked suppleness and strength. Even their facial expressions were not as natural and charming as the foreign girl's.
"Chinese girls have very good physical conditions, but they need thorough training in basic skills,'' said Ludmila Kovalik, the Ukrainian coach invited by China to help improve the Chinese girls' talent in the sport. "Their training format and methods also need improving.'' With a comparatively late start in the 1970s, 20 years later than athletic gymnastics, the sport is plagued by a limited reserve force, backward training methods, meager funding and few spectators.
This graceful sport is nicknamed "lonely
beauty'' in China. In recent years,
China began inviting coaches from world top countries in this field,
such Russia, the Ukraine and the Republic of Bulgaria, to share their
advanced training methods.
CHINA DAILY, by TAN