Wed, Jan 10, 2001 - Page 9 News List

Former Olympian discusses challenges facing Taiwan's athletes

Chi Cheng (紀政) was a bronze medalist in the 80m hurdles at the 1968 Mexico Olympics and is currently president of the ROC Community Healthful Life & Sports Association. Her gold medal in the women's 100m dash in the 1970 Asian Games in Bangkok earned her the title "the flying antelope" (飛躍的羚羊). She talked to 'Taipei Times' reporter Wu Pei-Shih about Yang Chuan-kuang and issues regarding Taiwan's athletic developments

By Wu Pei-shih 吳珮詩

Taipei Times: You have been helping Yang Chuan-kuang and his family return to Taiwan from the US and get medical treatment for Yang. What can you tell us about him?

Cheng: He is indeed the hero of the Taiwanese people as an international athlete. His keen yet sportsmanlike performance with Rafer Johnson in the decathlon in the 1960 Rome Olympics remains one of the "Hundred Golden Moments" in the history of the Olympic games. Yang and Johnson were trained by the same coach and the entire event was very close. They set records in their competition in Rome and it is a beautiful story. What is even more beautiful is their enduring friendship over all these years. Indeed, I think the beauty of track and field lies in the fact that the rewards an athlete receives correspond to the effort he or she makes. Whether you win or lose is not determined by a judge's score, as is the case with a number of other sports events. Hence, an athlete's achievements solely depend on his or her ability and skill. The journey of life is similar to track and field. The wins and losses are like highs and lows in life. One learns from both and gains experience. What is really important, I think, is to gracefully accept the outcome, whether you win or lose. If an athlete learns this lesson in the stadium, then it may help when faced with it in life. Yang and Johnson once had a fierce rivalry but are now very good friends. I believe Yang enjoys, as many athletes do, not only the honor and respect he has earned through his achievements in track and field, but also the international friendships he has made.

TT: Despite Yang's early glory in track and field, his life after retirement seems melancholy. Many people in Taiwan had forgotten about him before hearing of his ill health.

Cheng: People often ask me what I think about his practices as a medium (乩童). I look at it from two perspectives. First, this is an ancient practice. There is a huge demand for it in our society; Yang didn't invent it. He regards the practice as a way to help people. Second, I think being a medium involves physical exertion and is similar to sports in this way.

Exercise is good for him, especially at his age. Therefore, I don't think there is anything wrong with what he is doing and would not criticize him for it. Shortly before the 2000 Olympics in September, I threw a party for Yang to commemorate the 40th anniversary of his silver metal win in the Olympics, the first ever for Taiwan. His achievement in Rome was historic and meaningful, and we should not forget it so easily. I invited other Olympic participants to the party and around 100 people showed up. Everyone was pleased they had the opportunity to get together.

TT: But what happened to Yang after his retirement does not seem to be an isolated case. Many athletes and sports stars in Taiwan do not lead a very happy life after their retirement. How do you view this situation?

Cheng: This is definitely an issue our society needs to take a closer look at. It should be addressed in discussions on how to fulfill the potential of our "outstanding" athletes. That is, these athletes should be given not only the athletic training they need, but also the skills they will need to earn a living after they retire. Many athletes who participate in the Olympics, or even win a gold medal, cannot earn their livings in that sport. The number of athletes who turn pro and earn large salaries is very small. The vast majority lead a normal life.

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