Chinese retired female athletes encounter obstacles, opportunity as entrepreneurs

Updated 2017-03-13 16:57:47 Xinhua

After retiring in 2014, Liu Xue, a female javelin thrower, founded a sports training center for middle school students.

It's an entirely different arena for her, without coach and teammates, everything depends on herself, and she says it is all about personal drive and motivation.

“Between sports competition and starting a business, the only common feature you need is perseverance,” she said.

After exiting a world of medals and flowers, more and more retired Chinese female athletes are choosing to start sports-related business.

But the picture may be more complicated for some former athletes moving into the business world. Athletes are in need of the appropriate skills to make a success of post-competitive life. That is the view of Liu Wei, a seven-time table tennis world champion who earned a PhD from Peking University, and is now an associate professor on the campus.

“They (female athletes) have outstanding athletic ability, but it doesn't mean they know related business well. They need business training and new sets of knowledge in order to move into a new field,” said Liu Wei.

Everything is not always plain sailing for these female sports entrepreneurs. Xu Sha opened her own martial arts club after retirement, but didn't see any profits until three years later.

“There are too many things that I didn't know for the business, such as how to rent a proper place, get a license, keep the students...” Xu said, adding that it's a big challenge to learn these things in her 30s.

In 2016, Xu's success became a model for other retired athletes. She was invited to speak at the Personnel Department of the General Administration of Sport of China to share her experience.

Olympic table tennis champion Deng Yaping is surely one of the most famous female athletes in China. Deng was after retirement, an international student, sports official and media practitioner. Now, she is running a sports industrial investment fund bearing her name.

Deng says female athletes have serious advantages as entrepreneurs. “They are more persistent, they can endure hardship, and that's the key point for them to make achievements in business.”

Deng suggests that more policies are needed to encourage entrepreneurship among retired female athletes, including sports funds, grants, loans and tax incentives.

“Useful training and policies will create more opportunities,” Deng said.

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