Feature: How one rural teacher helps children achieve sporting dreams
CHANGSHA, China, Sept. 8 (Xinhua) -- "Lower your body into a squat, place your hands on the floor, put your feet back in a plank position and jump forward..."
In the playground of Baisha Central Primary School in central China's Hunan province, 63-year-old Tang Wenhan repeats a set of high-intensity exercises to more than 40 pupils.
Tang, who retired two years ago, had taught physical education for 34 years in primary and middle schools in rural areas.
Apart from teaching, Tang is also a well-known local "talent scout" who seeks out and trains many young athletes in Hunan's Xinning county of Shaoyang city.
For more than 30 years, youth talents - including athletes with disabilities - picked up by Tang have won championships in provincial, national, Asian, and even global competitions.
Tang is also recognized as a "world champion's first teacher" for initiating village children into the world of sports.
Beads of sweat slid down Tang's dark, firm skin. He wiped the sweat from his cheek and told Xinhua of his post-retirement arrangements.
For him, being retired does not mean the end, but rather allows him more time to help rural children achieve their sporting dreams.
Tang's training venue for the children is in his former home, in a room measuring less than 30 square meters. Wooden rafters and chipped walls show the house's age, and the rings and hemp rope hanging from the ceiling have also helped many athletes to develop their skills.
"Get in line!" Tang orders his students to line up for their warm-up. "Rural children are more energetic and they enjoy running and jumping. Sometimes it is difficult to control them," he commented. "However, they are really passionate about sports and can face much adversity."
Tang often visits kindergartens and elementary schools in the county to find more sports-loving and talented children.
He asks the children to learn the standing long jump and the sprint. "This way, their energy, jumping ability and physical coordination can be evaluated."
Once talented prospects are identified, Tang then contacts their parents.
"If the parents allow their children to participate in training, I will help them exercise in their spare time and recommend them to coaches at the urban sports school," said Tang. "I understand that the training conditions I can provide are not sufficient to train children to become professional athletes," he added.
For more than 30 years, Tang has been sending an average of four or five students to the city each year for vocational training.
"Our rural children have been helping their families with farm work from a young age, so they are very diligent."
Tang also noted that some left-behind children in rural areas have nowhere to go after school. "They can come to me for exercise at no cost."
He also helps disabled children to play sports. "They are as passionate about sports as all of us," Tang said enthusiastically. "Being disabled does not mean they can't achieve their dreams; instead they can enjoy a full life, in spite of their disability."
He added that for some people with disabilities, sports can brighten their lives.
Tang's students have gone on to become athletes in judo, weightlifting, gymnastics, track and field, table tennis, badminton and other disciplines after enrolling at special academies.
They have won many championships at different levels, but have yet to win an Olympic gold medal.
"Seeing my students win the Olympic gold medal is my fondest wish and my lifetime goal," said Tang. "Having the kids train so hard, I think it is only a matter of time."
Tang's former student He Hongmei progressed to become world judo champion, and says she plans to open a judo gym in Xinning county to help train more children.
"For so many years, Tang has been engaged in sports teaching in village. Now, I want to be like my teacher and contribute to Chinese sport," He said. Enditem