Li Na’s Victory Could Change Chinese Sport

“The director of China’s tennis programme says more athletes should follow Li Na’s lead and break away from the country’s sports system.” Winning the French Open was a great victory for Li Na, who is the first Asian to ever win a tennis Grand Slam event. Yet how she was able to achieve this success is, in part, due to the fact that she chose to break away from China’s state athletic training system in 2008, a move that allowed her to choose her own coaches, training regimen and tennis matches. An additional perk for Ms. Li and three other tennis players who also abandoned the Chinese state system is that they get to keep a larger percentage of their professional winnings. This has prompted athletics professionals in China, including top tennis official Sun Jinfang, to question the state’s system and criticize it for its long history of rigidity and lack of emphasis on individualized training. There is no question that Chinese athletes are some of the world’s best, as the country’s performances in Olympic events often prove. But it would be nice to see more athletes like Li get a chance to flourish and achieve victory on their own terms and not just for the glory of Mother China. (BBC News Asia-Pacific – Li Na Bucks Chinese System)