Former basketball star selling medals to help friend

Updated: 2013-03-07 08:05

By Zheng Jinran (China Daily)

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A former captain of China's national basketball team has tried to sell his medals to raise funds for an ailing friend but has failed to find a buyer for the memorabilia.

"These medals are the most valuable items I possess. Though I want to keep them as souvenirs of my past glory, the desire to aid my friend is much stronger," said Huang Pinjie, who lives in Beijing and was captain of the national basketball team for eight years from 1971.

Three gold medals from the Asian Cup and one from the Asian Games were listed for sale online through Huang's micro blog one month ago. The gold medal from the Asian Games in 1975 was the first ever victory for a Chinese national basketball team participating in an international competition.

"It's worth selling these medals if they can save my friend," the 66 year old said, adding that many friends tried to persuade him not to part with the memorabilia.

Huang's friend in need is 68-year-old Yao Shiren from Nanjing, Jiangsu province, a big fan of Chinese basketball who in the early 1970s quit his stable job to become a freelance sports reporter.

"He's one of the few people that praised our accomplishments at that time," Huang said, adding they did not receive as much attention as the current national team does, despite their success. Yao's reports were the source of much of their support.

But Yao was only able to write those reports because he quit a stable job that would have provided him with a pension. Yao and his wife now receive only 900 yuan ($145) a month, far from enough to cover basic living and medical expenses, especially since last October when Yao was diagnosed with hemiplegic paralysis.

"I cannot get money from my children because they can barely afford their own lives," Yao said.

He didn't tell his friends because they had not contacted him for more than seven years. But when Huang heard Yao's story in February, he started to collect money to financially support his friend, but his attempt to sell his medals has been unsuccessful.

"I have to drop my plan (to sell the medals)," he said on Wednesday.

But many of Huang's fans have pledged to donate money to the former reporter after hearing his story. Jiang Xinxin, an alumnus of Huaqiao University in Quanzhou, Fujian province, is one donor.

"My friends are willing to help Yao by donating money," said the 29 year old, a former player in the university basketball team that Huang coached in 2007.

"The amount of the donation will be decided after we speak to Yao," Jiang said.

The former champion player helped the team improve their game, teaching them useful techniques based on his rich experience.

"He's like a buddy to us and would talk to us about life problems sometimes," Jiang said.

"It's Huang, the friend I made while working, who has given me the strongest support," Yao said. "I never regret my decision to report on basketball events."

(China Daily 03/07/2013 page3)