Olympic champion Xu Lijia expects a booming sailing in China

Updated 2017-07-31 10:37:57 Xinhua

With less than a month to go before the Chinese National Games to kick off in Tianjin, Xu Lijia, the London Olympic Games champion, could only cherish her dream to compete in the Tokyo 2020 Games at the moment.

In a picture posted on her social media Weibo after a surgery, Xu, the women's laser radial champion in 2012, kept smiling at the camera in a patient gown, with her left arm in a sling and her right hand bandaged but thumb up.

Xu knew she will miss the National Games due to her shoulder surgery. Yet, the 30-year-old hoped to compete in Tokyo 2020, and let more Chinese people enjoy the sport of sailing.

One month before the 2016 Rio Olympic Games, Xu felt the pain of her shoulder, but managed to finish the race. After taking the advice of doctors to rest for three to six months, she still suffered from the pain, and received surgeries to her left and right shoulder respectively in May and June, 2017.

"The recovery will take six to nine months, then I will start high intensity training," said Xu, "I want to tune up for the next Olympic Games."

"I may not be able to sail for a while, but I can still enrich my life," she added.

In 2014, Xu became a judge in world sailing, and also a member of the World Sailing Athletes Committee. Besides, she is still studying for her master degree of International Management in Britain, which she called "Heaven of Sailing".

"I am like a sponge there, absorbing all the knowledge related to sailing," she said.

Meanwhile, Xu had a professional team behind her to promote the sport in her hometown as she has become an ambassador and training partner of the China One Ningbo, the team that won the inaugural M32 world championships in Sweden.

"China One Ningbo aims at cultivating the Chinese sailors, and we hope Xu Lijia's participation will arouse the interest and enthusiasm of the Chinese people," said Sun Xiao, the team's co-founder.

Apart from the M32 world championships, China One Ningbo also takes part in the World Match Racing Tour. Most of its members compete in both professional tours and Olympic Games, a trend in the future, to Xu's viewpoint, as it will break the barrier between professional sailors and national team members, like the US basketball team in 1992.

Philip Sohmen, co-chairman of the team, is the grandson of Sir Pao Yue-Kong, owner of the World-Wide Shipping Group. The team is named after his hometown Ningbo, a coastal city close to Shanghai. And both sides are going to cooperate on the International Sailing Center project based in Ningbo to bring to China more global sailing competitions.

And that's what Xu hopes. And she is delighted to see increasing numbers of clubs and docks built in China. "Once there are more professionals and a complete training system, we'll witness a boost in sailing in China."

Nowadays in China, sailing is still known as a luxurious sport. But Xu disagrees with that as the price of the OP class boat she practiced with as a teenager, was less than 10,000 RMB. She suggest starters to learn the sport in clubs, then manage to build their confidence through races before buying their first boats.

"No matter what is your age, gender, height or income, you can find the most suitable one from hundreds kinds of boats," she said, "or the most suitable position on the boat, skipper, strategist, and so on."

And of course, her biggest dream is to take the helm by herself, and she has been receiving tips from the skipper, team leader and world champion Phil Robertson.

"To race by myself would be the best way to express my love for the sport and to promote it in China, and I hope one day you can see me back to the ocean," said Xu.

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