Caroline who is a free-lance writer for the French Gymnastics Federation magazine met the gym star from China Sun Xiaojiao at the French Internationals. Here is her report.|
(Special thanks to Melanie Green (U.k.) who did the translation).
Sun Xiaojiao, beauty of the aurora.
In China every name has a meaning. Sun Xiaojiao has a particularly poetic connotation: Sun (her surname) denotes "little girl of", Xiao represents "aurora" or daybreak, and Jiao signifies beauty. A very pretty name for a very pretty gymnast. However, if you meet her, call her "Bali guanjun" which stands for "champion of Paris". This is the nickname that her teammates gave her following her victory on beam at the French International in 2001. It was at Bercy that we saw her again last October, and in between her two training sessions the pretty Chinese girl told us a little about herself.
We knew very little about her - only that she excels on beam, having won the title at Bercy the year before with the sole 10.00 SV on this apparatus. Prior to this achievement, Sun Xiaojiao's journey as a gymnast was typical of many:
A native of Zhjiang, a province in Southern Shanghai, Sun began gymnastics very early. Spotted at the age of three in a kindergarten, she gradually climbed the ladder that led her to the doorway of the national team. When she was twelve, she left her family to join the training centre at Peking. There she rubbed shoulders with the stars of that generation - Liu Xuan, Dong Fang Xiao and Ling Jie.
Following Sydney and the anticipated retirements of those girls, Sun Xiaojiao found herself understandably thrust into the spotlight. As she is a specialist rather than an all-rounder, her trainers enrolled her onto the World Cup circuit. The Paris Grand Prix is a must for gymnasts, and the capital became a special place for Sun Xiaojiao. It was at Bercy that she first gained international recognition.
"Winning at Paris in 2001 was a turning point in my career. Before that I never really believed in my chances of winning a major title on beam. That victory gave me confidence - after that I notched up other good performances, such as my beam title at the Goodwill Games, and my bronze at the World Championships in Ghent. This year things didn't go quite as well at Bercy, but I'm going to continue training hard for the forthcoming World Cup final in Stuttgart." And she was right to continue to believe in herself, as she won the beam title in the Grand Prix final at the beginning of December.
Back at home and crowned with success, she was able to pause for breath and find time again for a weekend with her parents. It was a rare privilege! Just imagine, Sun Xiaojiao hadn't been home for six years. It is her parents who travel once a year to Peking for the national holiday or the Chinese New Year. But don't go thinking that the gymnasts whose parents live in the capital, Peking, are any better off. Out of concern for fairness, those gymnasts only see their parents for a few days at most. For the rest of the year, it's the gymnasium and then more of the gymnasium.
With a volume and intensity of effort that the Chinese alone are capable of enduring, the days' workloads are titanic. They must rise at six in the morning, train, study, and then train again in the afternoon from half past two to half past six. The education they receive remains rudimentary, with literature and maths given priority. The older ones learn some of the basics of English, but not enough for Sun Xiaojiao, who wants to improve her English once she has the time. "My former teammates Ling Jie and Kui Yuanyuan are learning French at university, it's a pretty language but too difficult for me. English is a universal language and vital for the profession I wish to have later. I would like to become an air hostess."
Page (c) Caroline and Bernard for Kostiskal
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