Sat, May 24, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Former Chinese tennis ace to lead young Aboriginal players to Beijing

STAFF WRITER, WITH CNA

Former Chinese tennis player Hu Na (胡娜) is scheduled to lead three Aboriginal youths to Beijing in July to participate in an international juniors tennis competition.

The three Aboriginal tennis players, who have been protegees of Hu since they were eight, will take part in the 14-and-under division of the Beijing International Youth Tennis Competition, said Hu, who defected from China and played on the women’s pro tour until 1991 and then settled permanently in Taiwan 12 years ago.

Hu, a native of Sichuan Province, disappeared from her hotel room in California in July 1982, when she was playing for China in the Federation Cup international tennis competition.

In a decision that caused short-term rancor in US-China relations, the US government granted the then 19-year-old Hu political asylum.

One of Hu’s three protegees, Chang Hua-chuan (張華娟), won the 14-and-under division of the National Youth Tennis Competition last year and is ranked among the top three in Taiwan’s 16-and-under division even though she’s only 14, Hu said.

Hu, who now runs a tennis club in Taipei’s southern suburb of Sindian, traveled to Hualien in February 2002 to interview seven schoolgirls from Hualien’s Kuangfu Primary School who were considered to have potential.

Finding that all seven “could hit the ball the first time they held a racket,” she invited them to Taipei for a month-long training session at her tennis club during the winter break. At the end of the session, Hu signed three of them to long-term coaching contracts.

The three have since grown up to be Hu’s “daughters,” living with her and learning from her. Like typical families, they go to restaurants and shop for clothes at department stores together whenever they have free time.

While it costs about NT$1 million (US$32,800) a year to develop the three girls, an “investment” that will not see a return any time soon, Hu said she considers the three to be “bluechip” stocks.

“All of them are good girls determined to make a good showing and have tried hard to win credit,” she said.

Since 2002 when she started her tennis coaching career in Taiwan, Hu has committed herself to an ambitious 10-year plan, with a vision of nurturing Taiwan’s own version of the Williams sisters.

The 45-year-old Hu, whose highest singles ranking was 48th in February 1988, has described tennis as her “better half,” despite her name being frequently linked with several local businessmen.

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