What province do China’s best athletes come from?

In China, almost every province has its own top sports. For example, there are many first-class badminton players in Hunan Province, and Hebei Province is famous for shooting. However, among all the provinces Liaoning Province has contributed most to the miraculous performance of Chinese elite athletes in the Olympic arena. Among the Olympic champions hailing from Liaoning are Yuan Hua (women’s judo, Sydney), Wang Junxia (women’s 10,000 meter, Atlanta), Wang Yifu (men’s shooting, Athens), Wang Nan (women’s table tennis, Sydney and Athens) and Zhang Ning (women’s badminton, Athens).

Why are the Chinese so good in certain specific sports, such as gymnastics, table tennis, and diving?

For a long time Chinese sports officials and coaches believed that in order to improve the overall level of Chinese elite sports, they should focus on sports that feature athletes’ special techniques and skills rather than speed, strength, or stamina—sports like gymnastics, table tennis, diving, badminton, and shooting. When Chinese people believe that they have some kind of inborn advantages over their rivals in those sports and there are enough professional athletes who play those sports, the fruits of the resulting self-confidence and investment are sweet. By the way, women’s weightlifting in China is an obvious exception—we Chinese women have great strength! (laughs)

Are there specific training centers in China for Olympic athletes?

Normally, the national teams of most of the Olympic sports have their own training centers. These training centers are located mainly in Beijing, the capital. Each province also has its own training centers, for the training of provincial teams. Some of these provincial training centers are so good that they catch the fancy of the national teams, which choose to train there. For example, there is a very good table tennis training center in Zhengding County, in Hebei Province. Almost every year the national table tennis team goes to train there for several months.

Is there more competition among Chinese athletes since China won the bid for the 2008 Olympics?

Yes, there is. After China won the bid, the General Administration of Sports immediately decided to create third-tier national teams for most Olympic sports. Previously the national teams had two tiers—for example, the national table tennis team had a first squad and a second squad. But after China won the bid, the national teams of these sports introduced third squads. As the size of the national teams has increased, the competition among team members has also increased.

Source: Middle Kingdom: Q&A with Wu Ping. (2006). Guanxi: The China Letter, 3, 6.