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Cheer on 'Overseas Squad'
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18:55, August 04, 2008

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The "Overseas Squad" is a nickname for Chinese athletes serving overseas and representing foreign teams in competitions.

Amid the dizzying array of the news and reports recently on the Beijing Olympics starting on Friday, there is a brief bit arousing great attention among the Chinese people---Mrs. Luan Jujie is competing again; but this time she is playing dual roles as coach and as athlete on behalf of the Canadian fencing team.

Luan is not exactly a household name in Canada but she is a former Olympic champion in China. The 50-year-old mother of three won China's first-ever Olympic fencing medal in the foil competition at the 1984 Los Angeles Games. She moved to Canada in 1989 and has been working as a coach in Edmonton. But one of her dreams was to fence at the Olympics in her home country, so she returned to compete earlier this year and met the Olympic qualifying standard in March. She is ranked 43rd in the world, and while she is not considered a medal contender; she will be a favorite in her homeland where she has been featured on a postage stamp and the subject of a hit movie.

When asked whether she had thought about some of her fans, who have until now, trouble understanding why she and other sports stars chose to go abroad at the turn of last century, she admitted that it remains a complicated issue to drive home. But she said she always believed that sports are borderless and the sporting spirit goes beyond geological confines. She maintained that an athlete should always seek professionalism, no matter where he or she is.

Under the banner of the Olympic spirit in pursuit of "faster, higher and stronger," many athletes have in recent years moved to other countries to further polish their skills, just like experts in other fields. Wherever they go, they always keep in mind their mission as an athlete and the homeland is always dear to their hearts, Luan said.

What Luan said is quite reminiscent of a top Chinese athlete who went abroad in the 1990s to play on behalf of a foreign team; and was then publicly accused of being a traitor. Why a Chinese athlete would represent a foreign team and beat his own fellow countrymen was totally beyond Chinese public thinking in those days. More than one decade has gone by since the incident; and the Chinese people have now become more tolerant and generous, which is vividly illustrated in the warm welcome Chinese fans recently gave to well-known former women's volleyball player Lang Ping who is currently coaching the U.S. national team.

The radical change in public attitude does not occur overnight; rather it is born from the growing confidence of a nation. China has increasing become a rational and mature country, and its people are no longer buried in nationalism and blind to the broader horizon of the outside world. China is actually attracting more and more talented athletes and coaches from around the world.

In recent years, China has become strongly appealing to many sports professionals from various countries. We have currently more than 20 foreign coaches from over 10 different countries leading the Chinese teams on their way to seize Olympic medals. For them, China is not only a country they are serving but also an arena to bring out their best qualities and a place where their dreams perch.

In the recently concluded 2008 UEFA European Football Championship the Russian team, led by their Dutch coach Guus Hiddink, have collected a string of stunning victories, injecting hope into the hearts of fans inside and outside Russia.

This is where the sporting charm lies, and this also helps explain why sporting events are always the most exciting gala for humans. Sport is a shared language conveying common good will to the entire world, as sport in itself has no physical confines; and it requires all athletes to compete for the same goal following the same rules. Overseas Chinese athletes choosing to come back for the Olympic competition on behalf of other teams might create a subtle confrontation between internationalism and nationalism to Chinese spectators, who might feel a bit of confusion. But they will still cheer for the wonderful performance of the 'Overseas Squad' at the Games.

By People's Daily Online

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