While the nation’s young athletes were ecstatic at the news that Taipei will host the 2017 Summer Universiade, some have said that the government needs to start preparing the athletes for the Minor Olympics.
Expedition race runner Kevin Lin (林義傑) just completed a 10,000km run along the Silk Road in September.
The nation needs to focus on training school-level athletes, not just building new sports stadiums, he said.
“We are lucky and we have no problems with our infrastructure,” Lin said in an interview with the Taipei Times. “However, I think we should pay more attention to the athletes that are still in school. It would be embarrassing if Taiwan, as the host country, only won a few medals.”
“I know officials will make names for themselves by building all these stadiums, but I really hope that funding will be spent on training the athletes. That would be the best way to put Taiwan on the world stage. Otherwise, the games would not be exciting to watch [for people in Taiwan],” Lin said.
National Taiwan Sport University president Kao Chin-hsung (高俊雄) said the large sports event serves as a great opportunity for athletes to receive scientific training.
“In Taiwan, athletes can obtain additional subsidies from the Sports Affairs Council [SAC] or secure guaranteed entry to the universities only if they can prove themselves worthy, no matter how much potential they say they have,” Kao said. “So the coaches have to persuade parents and athletes to join one competition after another, and the reason is always: ‘Let’s fight for this one, and if you pull this off, everything is yours.’”
While some may argue that competitions are an important part of training as well, Kao said the risk of injury is inevitably high if the athletes are always competing.
“I asked some of the coaches why they have to train athletes 12 months a year and they said they could not afford to let the athletes let their hair down because their hearts will not be in the games anymore,” he said. “That was the belief held by most of the coaches. Our athletes should learn how to train themselves. Since we still have six years, we can plan the training with a longer-term view and apply sports science in the training process.”
Because the athletes who are qualified to compete in the 2017 Universiade are currently enrolled in junior or senior high schools, Kao said that the government should have training centers in all counties, so the athletes can be close to their families and develop a healthy personality.
Aside from compulsory sports, Kao said that Taiwan, as a host country, needed to carefully select the optional sports in which the nation has an advantage to win medals, such as baseball, taekwondo and several others.
Former taekwondo athlete Anne Chen (陳怡安) won the nation’s first Olympic gold medal in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, when she was only 15 years old.
She said that being able to host such a large sports event was definitely good news.
“I think this will be a major challenge for the athletes, -because when you compete on the home field, you definitely feel different,” Chen said. “I think that the most important thing is that the athletes compete with a normal attitude and enjoy the games, which will help bring out their best performances.”
Prior to being chosen as the host country for the 2017 Summer Universiade, Taiwan hosted the 2009 World Games in Greater Kaohsiung and the Deaflympics in Taipei the same year.
Some believe that experience and the new infrastructure built for these events were important factors that convinced members of the International University Sports Federation that Taipei could handle another large sports event.
Nevertheless, Kao and Chen said such high-profile events have helped change people’s perceptions about sports.
“I brought my children to the Deaflympics, and we could feel the atmosphere, the venue and watch the athletes. I think it is good for the development of sports in this country overall,” Chen said.
Kao said the World Games caused the Kaohsiung City Government to accelerate the development of its public infrastructure, making residents of Kaohsiung proud of their city.
The Deaflympics, for their part, stirred up the passion of Taipei residents, who are considered “rational” and “cool-headed,” for public affairs.
“Now you see these housewives with neatly styled hair who were thrilled when Yani Tseng (曾雅妮) scored birdies,” Kao said. “They don’t necessarily know how to play golf, but you see the potential of these sports events to strengthen the national identity.”
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