Student athletes shine at China's National Games

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Many young athletes have caught the eye at China's 14th National Games. In addition to their outstanding performances, their status as student athletes has attracted the gaze of the watching public.

Olympic shooting gold medalist Yang Qian, a student shooter from Tsinghua University, became a trending topic during the National Games on social network Weibo. From shooting off gold medals to swigging her water or rearranging her hair, her every move triggered an upsurge of attention.

Two months ago, when Yang grabbed the first gold medal for China in the women's 10m air rifle at Tokyo 2020, more than 3,000,000 people took to her Weibo account to congratulate her. During the National Games, she became even more popular.

Wang Zhen of Jiangsu province wins men's high jump gold medal.

Yang is not the only student athlete with a notable public profile at these Games.

Gui Ruyi, a high school student from Hefei, capital city of east China's Anhui Province, ran in the women's 800m final in the National Games. "This is awesome! As a high school sophomore, Gui's good performance in Xi'an can encourage many teenagers to get into sports," gushed a Hefei media outlet.

17-year-old fencer Song Yue is also a student athlete, and reached the women's foil last 32 at the Games. "It's exciting to come to a top-level competition like the National Games," she said.

In 2020, Song, who started practising foil at age six and trained three times a week for two hours, was selected into the national team and participated in the World Youth Championships.

"I usually take my online classes at noon or in the evening after a daily training routine. Striking a balance between learning and training is not easy, and is sometimes exhausting, but I still want to try to do it," said Song.

Yang Lihao, a 14-year-old national rock climbing champion from Shanghai, had a busy schedule at the Games. Just one day after he claimed gold in the combined Lead and Boulder under-16 event, Yang took a flight to New York to study abroad.

In order to participate in the National Games, Yang postponed his original plan to go abroad in August, and had once again changed his flight after the competition was delayed due to weather conditions.

To Yang, balancing studying and training is a double challenge.

"It's a tough period. The preliminary round of the National Games was arranged before my final examination. I didn't want to quit either of them, so I spent one or two days training in a suburb, and returned to school immediately," he said.

Changsha Yali middle school team, who represented Hunan Province, earned many compliments in the U19 women's basketball events. Some comments from netizens on social media called them the best example of the integration of sports and education.

An expert told Xinhua that more student athletes of talent will emerge in the near future, thanks to a notice published by China's General Administration of Sport (GAS) and Ministry of Education (MoE).

The notice underlines a joint effort by both organizations to step up the healthy development of the country's youth population, whose physiques are said to have been steadily declining for three decades.

"This notice aims to encourage robust youth sports in a broad sense, without which youth sports in a narrow sense cannot develop smoothly. We hope these two can form a virtuous circle," said Wang Dengfeng, a senior MoE official, highlighting the role schools need to play for a healthy nation.

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