Sending a large member of registered college students to the Bangkok Universiade, China is on a way to combine sports with education in a bid to earn a sustainable development of the sports.
After enjoying standings' top positions in Beijing 2001 with 54 gold, 25 silver and 24 bronze medals and Daegu 2003, China met with the sudden fall of gold medals, which happened as the right to organize the Universiade delegation transferred from the State General Administration of Sports to the Ministry of Education in late 2003.
"In the past, China regarded Universiade as the best place to put their athletes to test before the Olympic Games. So it is natural that we had good results with top Chinese athletes in team, " said deputy chef de mission Guo Jianjun.
These top-flight athletes are a group of special students who are admitted into the universities thanks to their good results in sports events but have missed out a dozen years of formal education before that. And they can hardly take academic lessons on a regular basis.
Promoting the idea of combining formal education with sport training, China is trying to change the situation.
"Now we are leaning towards athletes trained in the universities in our efforts to integrate the sport system and formal education," said Guo.
The current sport system is called the "three-level" training system or the "whole nation system", which will see sport talents go from local sport schools to provincial team before reaching the national team if they are both excellent and lucky.
"The whole nation system is concentrating the country's resources on training certain sport talents and it has been proved very successfully," said SGAS vice president Cui Dalin.
The system, according to statistics of the Chinese Olympic Committee, produced 1,692 world champions as of 2003 for China and 114 Olympic titles in seven Olympic Games, both summer and winter.
Its side effect, however, raised concerns when thousands of athletes failed to create good results at national or international level and retired with little means of making a living.
In many cases, even accomplished athletes lived in poverty. Zou Chunlan, a former weightlifting national champion, found lack of education denied her of all decently-paid jobs after her retirement.
"I don't think the whole nation system will be canceled after the Beijing Olympics but the product of central planning era will be added new content in the socialist market economy," said Cui.
"With the economy growing, government will not be the only place cultivating our sport talents. Universities or clubs may join in," he said.
On the other hand, millions of Chinese students mostly lack physical exercise, which resulted in the government ordering in May to ensure at least one hour of physical exercise for students each day.
Zhang Xinsheng, vice minister of education, thought that cultivating athletes on campus can both raise the sport level of the nation on the whole and solve the problem of retired athletes.
"China is following the trend (that universities produce high- level athletes)," said Zhang. "Some advanced countries like the United States have realized the integration."
"Parents support that their children receive formal education while being trained as an athlete. If these educated athletes are successful in sport field, that's good. But if they are not, they still can do well in the society," he said.
"On the other hand, sports will not only build up students' body but also provide them valuable experience they can never have from books," he said.
China is moving towards the direction. Tsinghua University has been playing a vanguard role as it set up its own diving, shooting and athletics teams.
The "Flying Spectacle Man" Hu Kai, men's 100m winner in Izmir, was pursuing his master degree in Tsinghua.
But on the whole, China has greatly improved their results from the 21 gold, 9 silver and 16 bronze medals from Izmir, Turkey four years ago to today's 33-30-27.
"This does reflect the improvement of our university sports," said Yang Liguo, executive chef de mission.