Olympic diving champion Tian Liang has found himself the center
of national attention once again, after a proposal at the ongoing
National People's Congress (NPC) called for his return to the
The proposal to the Fifth Session of the Tenth NPC was made by
lawyer Han Deyun and 20 representatives from Tian's native
Titled "National interest over everything: Tian Liang should be
allowed to be a national team member and win glory for the
country," it outlined problems in the selection system for national
"The country has spent a big sum of money developing Olympic
champions like Tian. No one has the authority to drop a good
athlete," said Han in the proposal.
"The Olympics are approaching and China needs a great number of
outstanding athletes. But according to the recent Olympic selection
system, Tian's chances are getting slimmer."
The double Olympic 10m platform champion was dropped by the
national team after the Athens Games for engaging in too many
commercial activities. His refusal to apologize and the subsequent
standoff with authorities appeared to spell a premature end to his
hugely successful career.
But team manager Zhou Jihong revealed last week that Tian still
has a chance to compete at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
"The national team door is open to all good athletes. Fu Mingxia
(formerly the country's leading women's diver) also had the
experience of coming back to the national team and winning Olympic
gold again after retirement. It is possible for Tian to be a member
of the national team again. But he has to prove himself at the
upcoming Olympic qualifying competitions," Zhou told Shanghai
There are five Olympic qualifying events for Chinese divers. As
well as the world championships, they have to win as many points as
possible at two national championships (2007 and 2008), one stage
of the FINA Grand Prix, and next year's World Cup.
Tian is only eligible to compete in domestic competitions as a
representative of his local team, but he will not compete at
April's national diving championships, according to his agent Liu
"Tian is fit but he has not trained recently," Liu told The
"It's been months since he last trained. I do not think he is in
good enough form to compete. He has made the decision not to take
part in the national diving championships in April."
The Swimming Administrative Center moved quickly to defend their
"Everyone who wants to get on the national team has to go
through the qualifying process," Li Hua, director of the center,
was quoted as saying on Sina.com. "There is no problem with the
selection system. We have rules and regulations to ensure fair
"Tian was sent back to the local team after violating national
"What he has done after leaving the national team is clear to
everyone. He did not even take part in last year's national
championships. I do not know why. It is impossible for us to select
an athlete who has been out of action for a whole year."
Li said they will take a look at the proposal, but will not bend
the rules just because Tian is a star.
"Winning a chance to compete at international competitions
including the Olympics is not a result of popularity or reputation.
It is about your ability."
(China Daily March 7, 2007)