Yao looks foward to a new dawn

Updated: 2011-12-31 07:53

By Sun Xiaochen (China Daily)

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Yao looks foward to a new dawn


Legendary basketballer to enter the next phase of his life in 2012

BEIJING - Basketball great Yao Ming summed up 2011 with the simple word "release".

"So many things happened in 2011. If I have to pick one (word to describe this year), it would be 'release', which could be understood as relax or relinquish," Yao said in his annual review published in the China News Weekly recently.

"I put down something while picking up some others; some things that I wanted to do but had no chance to really touch before," said the former Houston Rockets all-star center, who retired from the game in July.

After leaving the sport due to a chronic foot injury, Yao unloaded the burdens of being an NBA super star, the national team's backbone and even part of his Sino-US ambassadorship.

That has made him available for a host of new challenges. Yao will now play the roles of college student, professional sports team owner, charity enthusiast and budding entrepreneur, which are all unfamiliar but fascinating to the 2.26-meter giant.

"If I identify it as something I am supposed to do and enjoy doing, then I will try my best without hesitation," Yao said. "I expect several things from myself in 2012. I hope to continue promoting my home city Shanghai's world image, to lead the Sharks (Yao's CBA club) to finish higher in the domestic league and to build more schools in rural areas. I also look forward to new courses at university and the joy of study," Yao said.

Meanwhile, Yao said he would also like to see an adjustment in the country's sporting focus, shifting from the medal-first philosophy to a more comprehensive approach.

"For decades, we have been mainly focusing on what the athletes accomplished, whether they won the gold medal or not," Yao said. "If they do (win medals), they are worshipped as heroes. If they don't, not matter how much effort they made or how close they were, they are soon forgotten.

"We have won enough medals to prove our ability on the world stage. Now it's the time to invest more in the process," said the 31-year-old.

The nation's medal pursuit reached its zenith when it finished atop the medal tally at the 2008 Beijing Olympics with 51 gold medals.

However, the medal mania has also shown the ugly side of sport as Olympic champion weightlifter Liao Hui was banned for doping while several top skaters were reported to have violated age-limit rules.

Hailing the Beijing Olympics as a strong demonstration of China's strength in sport, Yao also stressed it also opened to the world the nation's unique culture and enhanced its image.

"There is only one title, but there are many other values we should appreciate at sports events. The Olympics provide us with a chance to communicate with different cultures and showcase our new generation," said Yao, who helped the national men's basketball squad equal its best performance with a top-eight finish in Beijing.

Inspired by the Hollywood movie Real Steel, which tells a story of how the journey is sometimes more important than the glory.

"After watching the movie, I thought the up-and-down march towards the battle was more sensational than a winning end.

"Although I will be happy to see Chinese athletes claim titles at the (London) Olympics. I am more interested in the process of getting there and the spirit and joy gained on the way," Yao said.

Despite hanging up his sneakers, Yao still keeps a close eye on the domestic league, and stresses the importance of an open policy.

"Our league used to be closed (with a strict limit on foreign players). Now, it has become more and more open to foreign imports who have drawn unprecedented focus and support. Although clashes sometimes come with flashes some teams will have trouble managing the big stars It is still a positive move to narrow the gap between us and the world," Yao said.

China Daily