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Golden Coach Sun Haiping
    2008-05-28 15:03:10     CRIENGLISH.com

Many people know Liu Xiang, the 25-year-old Chinese athlete who won the gold medal at the men's 110m hurdles in the 2004 Athens Olympics. He's the one who makes all Chinese proud as there was no such an excellent sprinter in the Chinese sports history before.

But behind such an acclaimed athelete, there is an invisible but indispensable man. That is Liu Xiang's coach Sun Haipin.

In today's China's Champion, we will introduce you to this rather mysterious man behind Liu Xiang.

Our reporter He Fei has the story.


Sun Haiping Coaching Liu Xiang [photo source: china.com.cn]

 
Back in 1998, Liu Xiang was not an exceptional hurdle athlete. But coach Sun Haiping spotted his potential.
 
"He was not very skillful back then. Unlike the others who knew how to cross hurdles, he jumped over hurdles. Although his technique was not correct, he had great pace. So I thought if he could perfect his technique, he could be amazingly fast."

Thus, Sun Haiping took 15-year-old Liu Xiang to the Shanghai Track and Field Team and began to train him.

Sun Haiping went to great lengths to coach Liu Xiang, during which the two forged a unbreakable bond. Sun Haiping says they can understand each other without any words.
 
"He now understands what I want to say through simple body signals. For example, if I push my hand, he knows that he should lean his body forward. And whenever I give him the thumbs-up, he's happy to be praised."

Sun Haiping continuously reads up on new ways to make Liu Xiang more efficient. Sheng Yueming, one of Sun Haiping's colleagues, once jokingly complained about this.
 
"He has too many books. We've made several bookshelves for him, but they're far from enough. Even the room under my bed is filled with his books! He is a very devoted coach."

Liu Xiang's parents Liu Xuegen and Ji Fenhua agree that the coach is par excellence.
 
"Even on weekends, Sun Haiping doesn't stop thinking of ways to improve Liu Xiang's training. He sits on the stairs, with his notebook on his knees, thinking. Even when his wife calls him, he has no response. When she calls him again and again, he gets angry about being interrupted." 

"Liu Xiang and Sun Haiping are very close. Sometimes he mistakenly calls his father 'coach' because he spends more time with his coach than with us. Sun Haiping even sent his aging mother to an old people's nursing home, and we in turn often visit his mother."

All his efforts paid off. Liu Xiang lived up to expectations and eventually became a world-class athlete.
However, when they were busy preparing for the 2004 Athens Olympics, Sun Haiping was diagnosed with rhinopolypus. Afraid of impacting Liu Xiang's performance, Sun Haiping refused to undergo surgery and kept on coaching.

He acted normal during daytime, but few people knew the pain he was going through in the sleepless nights before the Athens Olympics.

When the race started, Sun Haiping chose to observe Liu Xiang's performance in the stands near the third hurdle. Here's why:
 
"I stood besides the third hurdle because it's a critical point for him. Liu Xiang was a little bit slower at the start. But if he is OK at the third hurdle, he would catch up later. So when I saw him clear the third hurdle in third or fourth, I got excited, knowing he could win!"

As he expected, Liu Xiang won the men's 110m hurdles race with the record of 12'91. This was the best reward for Sun Haiping. The win also gave new hope to the Chinese National Track and Field Team.

Now, as the 2008 Beijing Olympics approaches, Sun Haiping and Liu Xiang have begun another session of rigorous training. The duo are hoping for an even better performance this time around to thrill the home-crowd.

After the China Athletics Open during the weekend, Sun Haiping said a slow gun was to blame for Lui's second false start in the test event, which he said was a sort of gamble on Liu's part.

"International race starters are different than the Chinese ones when it comes to firing the starting pistol," Sun said. "The international officials are quick on the trigger, while the Chinese are a little bit slow."

That may create problems for Liu at the Beijing Olympic since Chinese officials will start the races.

"This incident sounded alarm bells for us. We are going to have to arrange something in training to counteract this so he can get used to the Chinese way and avoid any problems at the Olympics," Sun said.

The slow starter also drew the attention of officials from the International Athletics Association Federation (IAAF).

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