(IN THE MID-2000S,
THESE THREE WOMEN (ZHENG JIE (LI NA (PENG SHUAI (CLIMBED TO THE TOP OF
TENNIS WORLD RANKINGS (WON 6 MAJOR TITLES
BETWEEN THEM (AND FUELLED A 4 BILLION DOLLAR
TENNIS BOOM IN CHINA) (TENNIS TRAILBLAZERS (CHINA JOURNEYS INTO
THE WORLD OF PRO SPORTS) (OLYMPIC GAMES
AFTER BEIJING 2008) (LEGACY OF BEIJING 2008) (CHINA TRANSFORMS) (OLYMPIC GAMES) (COMING OF AGE:
CHINA AFTER BEIJING 2008) In the last five to ten years, tennis in China
has changed dramatically. Because of these changes, much more attention has
been paid to the three of us during our matches and
training sessions. During this period tennis has become
much more popular and this has created
many opportunities for us. However, compared to
Europe, America and the UK, the development of tennis
in China is still only 20 years old. When I was 18, it was all new to me, because I had never been in
a professional match before. I soon began to compete
in many matches, from the ITF to the WTA, and my ranking improved. I gradually came to
understand what the WTA is, what courses they give and the services and
arrangements they provide for their players. Those things were
entirely new to me. It was an attractive situation and I felt that I had entered
a new world. (IN 2006, PENG SHUAI AND LI NA
BEGAN SPEAKING OUT (ABOUT CHINA’S NATIONAL
TENNIS PROGRAMME) (ATHLETES HAD NO CONTROL
OVER THEIR CAREERS (AND THE STATE KEPT
MOST OF THEIR WINNINGS) Through the course of
my professional career, the system here has
changed. I was in the news in 2006, because I made the decision to be an independent player
outside of the state system, and this created a major
conflict with the system. As a professional athlete, my ability to choose my own
matches and coaches is extremely important to me, because every player has
a different way of playing and no matter their physical
ability, speed and strength there are always differences. I think that turning pro and
being a professional athlete allows me more autonomy. Meanwhile,
I am the decision-maker. And all these choices
I have to make allow me to improve myself and become better at tennis. I think this is a process of
becoming more mature. (IN 2008, CHINA INSTITUTED
A NEW POLICY (CALLED THE DAN FEI
OR FLYING SOLO PROGRAMME (ALLOWING ITS TOP
TENNIS PLAYERS (TO CHOOSE THEIR OWN COACHES
AND KEEP MOST OF THEIR EARNINGS (A DECISION THAT HAS ENCOURAGED
OTHER CHINESE ATHLETES (IN THE VARIOUS NATIONAL
PROGRAMMES (TO PUSH FOR MORE AUTONOMY) Although Li Na and Zheng Jie
have retired and now are mothers, I still feel happy about
the time we spent together. We represent a specific era in
the history of tennis in China. As time goes by, more and
more children, teenagers and other people who
haven’t participated in tennis are paying more attention
to this sport. More and more
professional competitions are developing in China, and I think, as time goes by, everyone will understand
more about tennis. It’s not like in the beginning when tennis
was just another sport. Now it can also
become a profession. I feel very happy and
honoured that I possibly have left
a small mark of my own in the history of
tennis development in China. (TENNIS IS CURRENTLY THE THIRD
MOST POPULAR SPORT (ON CHINESE TELEVISION (WITH AN ESTIMATED 14 MILLION
PEOPLE (NOW PLAYING THE GAME) (THE VAST MAJORITY HAVE TAKEN
UP THE SPORT (SINCE THE BEIJING 2008
OLYMPIC GAMES) China, after the Olympics,
grew incredibly fast in terms of sport, especially tennis. We can say that you have
China before the Olympics and another China
after the Olympics. I remember when I came here
for the first time in China, Li Na was “the rebel”. Then when the people
have the chance to discover the real person
behind the player, they realise that
she’s one of them. She’s exactly the same. And that makes people say,
“We are proud of her, “because she is a real
Chinese, “no different than us.” (BEIJING, CHINA) I’ve been in charge of the development of
Potter’s Wheels from the beginning of 2012. The idea is to recruit and to train players from
all over the world. But we are much more
focused on the Chinese talent. Li Na was based here end of 2012
until end of 2014. She spent most of the time of the pre-season and
season practice at Potter’s Wheel. The big difference for
the private academy is that here the philosophy is
completely different. To give you one example, we try to put first
the human part of the kids. And then we try to develop
that, and thanks to that, the tennis player is going to
take another dimension. (IN 2014, CARLOS FAMOUSLY
COACHED LI NA (TO A CAREER-HIGH RANKING
OF WORLD NUMBER 2) (HE PREVIOUSLY COACHED JUSTINE
HENIN TO WORLD NUMBER 1 (AND OLYMPIC GOLD
AT ATHENS 2004) (CARLOS CONTINUES TO
CULTIVATE CHINESE TALENT (AS PROFESSIONAL SPORTS
CONTINUE TO GROW IN CHINA) When I see Anna
for the first time, she was 11. I have already worked
for two years with her. For the first time –
it’s difficult to explain – you see that in her eyes is something… When I see
Justine for the first time or Li Na for the first time,
even if she was a champion, but Justine Henin
at 13 years old… It was the same focus, desire,
passion, determination, and she doesn’t tell me
nothing, she only looks at me and I look at her, and I can feel
this energy and connection. When Li Na won
the Australian Open, her coach was Carlos, so my parents think because it’s Carlos’s tennis
school, it must be very good. So I wanted to come here and
see if he could coach me. My idol is Li Na. She has made
Chinese and Asian history by being the first player
from Asia to win a Grand Slam title. I watched her on TV. I want to be like that and win a Grand Slam
tournament just like her. Her human dimension is going to help her to
become maybe a champion. I always say
if I do my job very bad, she’s going to be top 20. If I’m doing well,
top five or top ten for sure. I’ve really improved
since I came here. I just played mechanically
in the past. With Carlos’s guidance, I’ve learned how
to play tennis with more technique and style. I never used my brain
to play tennis before. What I say to all the parents
when they come here is my job is not to make
champions, it’s to help your kids
to develop themselves and to get, by themselves,
the best of themselves. I think more and more athletes
are turning professional and becoming influenced
by the market, especially now that
the whole national system has started to integrate with
the professional market, starting from the Flying Solo
programme until today. It’s an important development
for the whole sports industry and athletes’
career development. It’s a brand-new reformation
of the sports business. I think this system won’t cause such a big stir
again like in the past, because I think there are
lots of sports in China, including tennis, that have gradually built up
grass-roots support. Originally, it was
primarily government that invested in sport. But now because of incentives, financial incentives
for business and fame for athletes, lots of parents and business interests have started to invest
in this market. (ONCE BANNED, BOXING IS RAPIDLY
BECOMING (ONE OF CHINA’S MOST POPULAR
SPECTATOR SPORTS) (WITH SOME FIGHTS WATCHED (BY AS MANY AS 36 MILLION
VIEWERS) (LI SHENG HAS SPENT OVER TWO
DECADES (IN THE SPORTS ENTERTAINMENT
CONSULTING BUSINESS) (HE HAS BEEN INSTRUMENTAL
IN SHAPING (PROFESSIONAL BOXING’S
RECENT SUCCESS IN CHINA) Professional boxing has
really developed in the past few years. After the League of Fists
was founded, many boxers have
turned pro here. League of Fists has
enabled many boxers to have their first
professional boxing match. And through the League many boxers can accumulate
their ranks and scores. What’s more important is that by holding the last two
seasons of League of Fists, we already have many boxers
who’ve won the WBO China Zone
Lightweight Championship. (BEFORE LAUNCHING (THE PRESTIGIOUS PROFESSIONAL
BOXING LEAGUE IN CHINA (LI HAD HELPED OLYMPIC CHAMPION
ZOU SHIMING (BREAK INTO PROFESSIONAL BOXING
IN 2012) (ZOU BECAME A HOUSEHOLD NAME IN
CHINA (AFTER WINNING CHINA’S FIRST
OLYMPIC BOXING GOLD IN 2008) So the transformation of
Zou Shiming from an Olympic athlete
to a star is like a reality show everyone is watching to see
if he can do it or not. Zou Shiming won both 2008 and 2012 Olympic gold
medals. So his amateur boxing career and his Olympic career had
already reached the top. Having achieved all that, his ambition was to win
a professional champion and a gold belt. When Zou Shiming
talked with me about turning pro in 2012, it was the day before
his final bout in London 2012. He told me he would
come to see me to discuss turning pro
after his match. After the 2012 Olympic Games,
we helped him turn pro. From that point until today, he has won the WBO
Flyweight Championship gold belt in Las Vegas. The effect of winning
that championship, in terms of audience rating, his marketability
and all other aspects, even upon the development
of boxing in China, it has given him a second life. And this way will help other Olympic boxers prolong
their careers as well. For amateur boxers, it’s very normal to retire
at the age of 25 or 26. But for professional boxing, 25 or 26 is the right age
to start. (CHINA – ZOU SHIMING) So I think, after 2008, athletes have
much more choices, and they can realise
their value, realise both their social
and business worth through various channels. In China, in the past, retired athletes became
sports officials, coaches, or part of the main force for
training younger generations. But since 2008, with the development of
the internet and social media, many athletes have been
transformed from someone who appears in front of
the public every four years into full-blown
sports celebrities. (MEN’S LIGHT FLY 49KG
RESULT – GOLD MEDAL BOUT (CHINA – ZOU SHIMING) (COMING OF AGE:
CHINA AFTER BEIJING 2008)

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Dennis Veasley

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