Watching world no. 1 Yihang Wang
tame Saina Nehwal easily in the
semi-final, 21-13, 21-13 on Friday
morning, I remembered my conversation with
a chinese journalist in the Main press Centre a
few days ago.
“In diving, table tennis, badminton, we should
make a clean sweep,” he had said. The bronze medal for the women’s badminton is still to be decided and it is not beyond world no. 5 Saina to beat Li Xuerie, her opponent in the play-off
and ranked no. 4 in the world. But you get the point. China’s dominating in certain events has not become so pronounced and for so long that it has become a cliché in sports. Only very rarely does
a player from another country get to the number
1 spot— or top medals— in these disciplines.
The secret of this success, according to the Chinese journalist – is in spotting and developing
excellence from a massive base of players.
The secret of this success, according to the Chinese journalist – is in spotting and developing excellence from a massive base of players. The Chinese too have a pyramidical system for sports, but they have spread the dragnet for capturing talent further and wider than in any other country. They use the hub and spoke model through which talent is spotted in the remotest districts, then fed through a pipeline into sports academies in major cities, and from there on to a pool of elite athletes who are trained to excel at major international events. I suppose in some way or the other all countries follow such processes, except that the Chinese have done this with a vigour and diligence. Some argue that this is done dictatorially— that has seen them assume dominant position in sports over the past decade.
Beginning with ‘ping-pong’ and badminton in the 1980s when they emerged from self-imposed exile from participating in international
sports events, the Chinese have expanded their expertise to include diving, swimming and gymnastics. Though track and field and the swimming pool is still ruled by the Americans, it seems a cinch that by the 2020 Olympics, the Chinese would be nudging them for top honours in these disciplines