Taiwan urged to change its sports policy after poor Olympics

August 22nd, 2008 - 7:14 pm ICT by IANS  

Taipei, Aug 22 (DPA) Taiwan’s (Chinese Taipei) academics and sports professionals, upset by the country’s poor performance at the Beijing Olympics, are urging the government to rethink its sports policy.But there are big differences - while some suggest Taiwan copy China’s military-style training, others think it should adopt the more liberal training methods used by Western countries.

Taiwan sent 80 athletes to the Beijing Olympics hoping to win seven golds, or at least better its record at the 2004 Athens Olympics when it won two golds, two silvers and one bronze.

But as of Friday, its haul of just four bronzes has left it way down in the Bejing medals ranking at 71.

Many Taiwanese wept when they saw Taiwan taekwondo champion Chu Mu-yen, gold medallist at the Athens Olympics and the best hope for Taiwan’s winning gold in Beijing, lose to the Dominican Republic’s Yulis Gabriel Mercedes and pick up bronze in men’s 58kg event.

And there was outrage at the baseball team losing five of its seven games in the preliminary round, including defeat by China, which had begun training baseball players only five years ago.

Chi Cheng, a former runner and former sports official, called on the government to follow China’s model and use systematic and military methods to train athletes.

“Without long-term training programmes, we can’t maintain the level of our athletes and have little chance of winning medals,” she told reporters.

Taiwan newspaper the China Times also lauded China’s way of grooming athletes.

“China is set to win 50 golds at the Beijing Olympics, clearing the shame of winning five golds at the 1988 Seoul Olympics.

“This success is due to support from the whole country and China’s ‘devil-style training’. Those who can survive the ‘devil-style training’ can win gold,” the paper said in an article entitled “Devil-Style Training - China’s Road to Gold Is Paved with Blood and Tears.”

But many Taiwan sports professionals, including Wang Pin-yi, 78, former top gymnastics coach in China’s Yunnan Province, think China’s training methods are unsuitable for Taiwan.

“In China, the state trains athletes from kindergarten until they win medals, paying their salary, hiring coaches and building gymnasiums,” he told Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).

“In the West, athletes train in clubs and pay for training hours, coaches and the use of swimming pool. Some clubs charge ten dollars for each hour’s use of the club. US swimming champion Michael Phelps trains by himself.

“In Taiwan, everything is amateur. Young athletes train after they finish class in the afternoon,” he said.

Wang defected to Taiwan in 1981 and has been training young athletes in southerrn Taiwan’s Kaohsiung County.

Wang runs one of the three amateur gymnastics training camps in Taiwan, while China has thousands of sports schools training pre-teens and teenagers.

In recent years, Taiwan has begun to invest more in building sports facilities and training athletes.

President Ma Ying-jeou, a keen jogger, has vowed to launch sports centres across the island and to hold international events including the University Games, Asian Games and Olympic Games.

Taiwan is also rolling out hefty rewards for its Olympians - from 12 million Taiwan dollars (387,000 US dollars) for a gold medal to 900,000 Taiwan dollars (29,000 US dollars) for seventh and eighth place finishes.

Before major international completions, athletes train for months under Taiwanese, Chinese and foreign coaches at the Tsoying National Athletes’ Training Centre in Kaohsiung.

But such intensive training has drawn criticism from some scholars.

“The Soviet-style training does not suit Taiwan because it contradicts human nature and the athletes are unhappy,” said Peng Huai-chen, an associate professor at Tunghai University.

“It works in China because Chinese people are used to being told what to do by the government. We should shift the focus from training a handful of athletes to win gold to promoting sports to improve public health.

“When many people take up sports, we will have outstanding athletes who can win medals.”

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