Chinese coach falls in love with Mexico diving

Updated: 2015-04-13 02:31

By JI YE in Rio de Janeiro For China Daily(China Daily Latin America)

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Chinese coach falls in love with Mexico diving

Coach Ma Jin celebrated with medalists from the Mexican diving team after the 2015 FINA Diving Grand Prix in Leon, Mexcio, which concluded on April 5. [PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY]

The 2015 FINA Diving Grand Prix in Leon of Mexico concluded last week with Mexican divers winning five golds, two silvers and two bronzes. Behind those achievements stands a Chinese coach.

She is Ma Jin, an easygoing Chinese woman and hardworking diving coach. She is called "Chinese mother" by Mexico's "diving queen", Paola Espinosa. Ma has been awarded the Order of the Aztec Eagle, the country's highest decoration for foreigners.

In 2002, Mexico signed a deal with Beijing to import Chinese coaches, and Ma was among them to arrive in 2003. Since then, diving in Mexico has enjoyed fast development. At the London Olympics, the Mexican diving team earned three of the country's seven medals.

The team showed itself to be a dominant power again at the 2015 FINA Diving Grand Prix in Leon, which ended April 5 with more than 100 divers from 19 countries participating. Yet Ma remained modest, saying that she hadn't expected so many medals at the highly competitive event.

One of Ma's proud "products" is Espinosa. The most popular woman diver in Mexico won two Olympic medals in Beijing 2008 and London 2012, and top prize in the women's platform in the 2009 World Championships, beating Chinese Olympic star Chen Ruolin.

Due to Espinosa's triumphs, Ma is considered a hero in Mexico, and has been feted by the Mexican president with the Aztec Eagle award. She is so familiar to the Mexican press, that even journalist can pronounce Ma's name with a decent Chinese accent.

Ma spoke highly of Mexico's recent progress in diving. "The country is paying more and more attention to the sport. The FINA Diving Grand Prix in Leon attracted so many audiences that the stadium didn't have enough room for them. They were very excited about the event. Some brought all family members," she said.

Inspired by Espinosa, one of the country's most popular sports stars, more and more children in Mexico are going to diving schools, with many parents hoping they can be as successful as her.

"Mexicans are crazy about their idols and love watching sports very much. Espinosa is the most-welcomed star except for soccer stars in the country," said Ma.

In addition to being honored by the Mexican government, Ma also was commended by Chinese President Xi Jinping in his speech to the Mexico's senate when he visited the country in 2013.

Although Ma is enjoying a successful coaching career, things were not easy for her at the beginning. When she first arrived in the country in 2003, she had difficulty adjusting to the language, cultural differences and customs.

"I always believe the motto about survival of the fitness. When you come to a new place, you cannot change the environment, you have to change yourself," said Ma.

Now, 12 years later, she has become acclimatized and speaks fluent Spanish. However, after being in Mexico for 10 years, Ma felt very homesick, and she had considered returning to China but it was Espinosa who helped her decide to stay.

At the 2006 World Aquatics Championships, Espinosa cried before her competition, which Ma thought was because she feared losing. Ma learned later that it was because she feared losing her coach if she didn't perform well. Moved by Espinosa, Ma dedicated herself to staying in Mexico and training divers like Espinosa. Those efforts have paid off with the remarkable achievements by Espinosa and her teammates.

The young divers treat Ma not only as a coach, but also a mother, and say they would help her solve any problem she encounters.

To earn the divers' trust, Ma adapted a softer way in training, not only focusing on technique, but also doing a lot of personal communication.

Numerous divers consider Ma to be their "Chinese mother", and Dolores Hernandez, a 17-year-old rising diving star, is one of them.

"Her techniques have helped me make big improvement and she really cares about our life, health and study like a mom. I hope She can always coach us," said Hernandez.

Ma said that now her divers send her a message every night: "We love you."

"It really touches me a lot," said Ma. "The feeling is just like when I see them stand on the podium. Both of them can make me happy."