Monday, September 1, 2008

Torch festival for the disabled

Disabled people enjoyed an unprecedented gala as the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games torch passed through the capital of Hubei province yesterday.

More than 2,400 of Wuhan's 438,000 physically challenged people cheered the torch on its relay and enjoyed the accompanying performances.

Local authorities said it was the largest get-together for the disabled in the city.

"The torch relay is real festival for us and I feel extremely happy," one of the disabled spectators said, waving the national and Paralympic flags.

Sixty torchbearers, including 11 disabled persons, took part in the 3-km relay.

Wen Qing, the final torch bearer, said: "I hope disabled athletes carry forward the spirit and go all out to achieve good results in Beijing."

Wen, dubbed the "wheelchair princess", has won more than 50 wheelchair race medals at home and abroad over the past 15 years.

Seven Hubei athletes will take part in swimming, table tennis and track events in the Paralympics that starts on Sept 6.

The Wuhan city government has intensified its efforts to help the disabled. For example, it has created more than 10,000 jobs for the physically challenged over the past five years.

The Paralympic torch relay will cover 13,181 km in nine days and pass through 11 cities. It passed through Changsha, capital of Hunan province, along the "Ancient China" route yesterday.

The relay has two routes - "Modern China" and "Ancient China".

The "Modern China" route covers Shenzhen, Wuhan, Shanghai, Qingdao and Dalian. The "Ancient China" route includes Xi'an, Hohhot, Changsha, Nanjing and Luoyang.

Wuhan has a population of 8 million and is the economic and communications hub of central China. The local government has decided to raise the city's GDP from last year's 314 billion yuan to 1 trillion yuan in the next seven to eight years.

Source: China Daily

Beijing Olympic Boxing: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (3)

The Ugly

Honorably, I had a long conversation with Evander Holyfield in his hotel room here in Beijing, and the only topic we didn't touched, as it were, in the realm of boxing, was the ugly side of fighting, which he knows far better than anyone else.

Yet the next day, we put no effort on searching Holyfield's miserable experience in our memory. We see it in action.

Dzhakhon Kurbanov, a light heavyweight boxer from Tajikistan, was disqualified for biting his opponent, Yerkebulan Shynaliev from Kazakhstan, on the shoulder during their Olympic quarterfinals.

Holyfield was at the ringside. The American boxing legend, who travelled all the way to China, told me that he came here for the purpose of scouting the best Chinese boxing prospect for his promotional company.

He witnessed a load of Olympic boxing's best behaviors that night, including China's final gold medalist light flyweight Shiming Zou and light heavyweight Xiaoping Zhang.

However, the 1984 Olympic light heavyweight bronze medalist apparently won't be happy watching the scene that possibly would reminds him of the woeful moments when Mike Tyson infamously bit off a chunk of his ear 11 years ago, as he had already left the arena after watching China's light heavyweight Xiaoping Zhang triumph over Abdelhafid Benchabla of Algeria.

The dirty misdemeanor occurred with less than 20 seconds to go in the third round when Shynaliyev led the scorecard far ahead with 12-6. Feeling the frustration and desperation in the medal death match, the Mike Tyson mimic, who had been warned multiple times for shoving and holding during the fight, bit Shynaliyev on his shoulder during a clinch.

After the victim from Kazakhstan angrily showed the blood on his shoulder to the referee, the third night of the Olympic quarterfinals was put on an ugly final touch.

By People's Daily

Beijing Olympic Boxing: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly

Now the Beijing Olympics is already in the history book, and my life as an Olympic journalist has gone away with the passage of Beijing's hot air, both in and outside the ring. Everything seems to be back to normal, except for the memories lingering around my heart.

While still not getting used to life after the Games, I decided to ease my post-Olympic blues by reliving some of the good, the bad and the ugly moments of the 2008 Beijing Olympic boxing tournament.

【 The Good 】 【 The Bad 】 【 The Ugly 】
The Good

Striking Gold On Home Turf

On the hot afternoon of Aug 24, 2008 at the Beijing Workers' Gymnasium, China closed its 51-gold solo Olympic show with two golds, one silver and one bronze in the square ring.

The Eastern Dragon smashed the triopoly of Cuba, Russia and the United States, any of whom had ruled the tally table in boxing at every Olympics since 1942.

Cuba bagged eight total medals – four silvers, four bronzes, yet no golds. Russia leveled China in golds, but trailed by one silver on the table. The once towering United States ended up with no gold, no silver, but merely a single bronze.

Zou Shiming of China, left, won the light flyweight 48 kilogram Olympic boxing gold medal by defeating Serdamba Purevdorj of Mongolia in Beijing, Sunday, Aug. 24, 2008. Bronze medalists are Yampier Hernandez G of Cuba and Paddy Barnes of Ireland.
With two golds, one silver and one bronze, China emerged as the new king in the amateur boxing world.

Being the host nation can be a double-edged sword, as the expectation of performing on home soil is way above the norm and the pressure has to be measured against the boost from the local media, as witnessed by Chinese shooter Li Du's failure to win the first gold medal of the Games.

Yet, Chinese boxers not only lived up to the hype, but exceeded their high expectations.

China's light flyweight Shiming Zou launched the bonanza by winning in an unexpectedly easy fashion when the other finalist from Mongolian retired with a shoulder injury that had plagued him before the Games early in the second.

Two hours later, the biggest dark horse of the Olympic boxing tournament Chinese light heavyweight Xiaoping Zhang resumed Zou's remarkable feat, doubling the host nation's boxing golden tally by outpointing Kenny Egan 11-7.

Zhang Xiaoping of China celebrates after defeating Kenny Egan of Ireland in the men's light heavyweight 81 final boxing match to win the last gold medal for China at the Beijing 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Sunday, Aug. 24, 2008. Bronze medalists are Tony Jeffries of Britain and Yerkebulan Shynaliyev of Kazakhstan seen at the right.
China's third finalist super heavyweight Zhilei Zhang was blocked from winning the third boxing gold medal for China by the talented Italian Roberto Cammarelle.

The 6'7" Chinese giant was no match against the 6'3" Italian little big man, who breezed into the final with an effortless knockout victory over Britain's Commonwealth title holder David Price and had the edges in hand speed, athletism and ring generalship.

Although being dominated from the sound of the opening bell and taking several crunching blows to the jaw, the valiant Zhang showed no signs of fear and demonstrated admirable resistance.

By the time the third round was over, the Italian super heavyweight world champion had taken an 11-3 lead.

That became 13-4 by the fourth before Cammarelle landed a vicious short left hook, which dropped the World Championships bronze medalist to his knees. The gallant Zhang beat the count, but the merciful referee waved off the bout, putting an end to Zhang's seemly endless punishment, and also putting China's finishing touches of its Olympic medals, the 100th, in Beijing.

The World Championships welterweight bronze medalist Hanati finished third again when he was awarded the bronze medal together with Korean Jungjoo Kim at the medal ceremony after the welterweight final, one hour before Zhilei Zhang concluded China's medal bonanza with a super heavyweight silver.

Last year in Chicago, nearly 600 boxers from more than a hundred countries participated in the 2007 World Boxing Championships, yet China stood out from the crowd by reaping one gold, four bronzes and seven "Olympic tickets," with nine out of eleven participants cruising to the eighth-finals and seven to the quarterfinals.

This year in Beijing, a total of 286 elite boxers from all round the sport's powerhouses gathered at the 2008 Olympic boxing arena, with the mighty Cuba standing in the way, China took a step further by winning two golds, one silver and one bronze with a historical six boxers make it into the quarterfinals, notwithstanding.

The sleeping boxing Giant is now awakening, and looks set to rule the roost for a long time to come.

Rose In Blossom

While China rang down the curtain on the Beijing Olympic Games with a history-making boxing boom, the 2012 Olympics' host nation Great Britain came back home with a full blossom in the sport as well.

Great Britain, known for its emblem - the rose, reaped its best medal haul in over half a century since Melbourne Olympics in 1956, with one gold and two bronzes.

Despite Britain's biggest gold medal hopeful Frankie Gavin's pre-game exit, due to the weight-making issues, James DeGale take over the torch to ignite his golden moment.

Although the draw put the British team in a dead group - Degale's path was hindered by the reigning Olympic champion Bakhiytar Artayev, while super heavyweight David Price had to confront the European super heavyweight champion Islam Timurziev in his opening fight, the British boxers performed more than creditably.

David Price and Light heavyweight Tony Jeffries both squeezed into the semifinals, while James DeGale danced his way to the final rivalry and brawled his way to the golden glory.

Will the gold medal dangling from DeGale's neck still shine in the London Olympics? Would the two bronzes turn into golds on their home soil? We'll see in four years' time.

Beijing Olympic Boxing: The Good, The Bad And The Ugly (2)

The Bad

The Fall Of A Mighty Empire

Gone are the days when the U.S. built its mighty empire upon the boxing immortality by winning five gold medals on the land of Montreal 42 years ago.

Gone are the days when the king of the world completely dominated the ring by harvesting twelve medals, ten of which gold, in 1984 and eight shiny pieces of hardware four years after in Seoul.

Coming back from Beijing with no golds and no silvers, only one bronze, the team, billed as "the best U.S. Olympic Boxing Team since 1984", is not one of, but the worst in U.S. Olympic boxing history ever, as far as the end result goes. The 1948 team also won only one medal, but at least it was a silver.

First, it was the bantamweight Gary Russell Jr., one of the team's top medal contenders who collapsed and withdrew even before the Games had started.

It was reported that the former World Championships bronze medalist lost consciousness in his Olympic Village dormitory hours before missing the Olympic weigh-in, but Russell's father and personal coach Gary Russell Sr. told me here in Beijing that his son dropped out of the Olympics not because of the alleged weight problems, not because of dehydration, but because of some other unannounced reasons.

"Gary was treated with fluids by doctors at his dorm but was not hospitalized," Russell's father said.

The next big hopeful for the Olympic gold in the U.S. team to follow in Russell's footsteps is the flyweight world champion Rau'shee Warren.

Warren, the first U.S. boxer to compete in successive Olympics in more than 30 years, was eliminated in the first round after losing a razor-thin 8-9 decision against his old foe - the 2005 World Championships gold medalist South Korean Oksung Lee.

The last American world champion Demetrius Andrade also fell in the hands of a South Korean Jungjoo Kim, who went on to secure a bronze medal, in the quarterfinals. The 20-year-old prospect walked out of the ring even before the referee raised the winner's hand.

It was heavyweight Deontay Wilder, virtually an after-thought U.S. medal hopeful and the one with the least boxing experiences on the U.S. contingent, brought home with the United States' only hardware - a bronze.

He booked the only hardware for the former Mighty Empire with a 10-10 controversial tiebreaker victory over Morocco's Mohammed Arjaoui in the quarterfinals before losing his sluggish bout 1-7 to Russian Clemente Russo.

When I asked USA Olympic Defensive Boxing Coach Willy Price his feeling about Wilder's last outing in Beijing, the veteran handler said: "The guy liked to hold and hug that made Wilder unable to take advantage of his long arms. With less than three years boxing experience, he brought home an Olympic bronze medal. Well, I think that's quite an accomplishment."

Commenting on the U.S. boxing team's performance, Willy Price said with a rueful tone: "I had a higher expectation coming here. My expectation is that we're going to take home with a bunch of medals...We've gotta talk about it."

He went on to say: "I think every coach's relation with the athletes is just like the father and sons. We shouldn't take anything away from any athlete how hard they trained, especially within the last couple of years."

I reckon that the 2008 Olympic U.S. Boxing Team consists of the most talented boxers from all over the United States of America, and the amateur scoring system is not a major factor to their terrible performance because it applies to every boxer who gets involved and the U.S. team did well enough with the international style to grab two golds and managed to dispatch three other boxers into the quarterfinals at last year's World Amateur Boxing Championships.

The Americans have the best traditions passed down from such greats as Cassius Clay , Sugar Ray Leonard, George Foreman, Joe Frazier, Evander Holyfield, Roy Jones Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya, among others, and the best gyms, the finest nutrition coaches and the most gifted young prospects, why did they have a nightmare performance this time?

Forget about all the excuses - controversies, quirky scoring system, the dreadful amateur boxing styles...

Since the Golden Boy crowned his golden title in Barcelona 1992, the Mighty Empire has went into a major decline in the amateur boxing stage, grappling six medals in Atlanta 1996, four in Sydney 2000, three in Athens 2004 and one in Beijing at the freshly-concluded Olympic boxing tournament.

I believe the steady decline of U.S. amateur boxing should not be attributed to some particular coaches or boxers, but the entire U.S. amateur boxing program.

The USA Boxing needs to take a few more rounds to reexamine the system. Hopefully, heading into London, they would redeem themselves and restore their past golden glory.

Competing in sports gave me a life: Jordan's first Paralympics gold medalist

"Competing in sports gave me a life," Maha Barghouti, Jordan's wheelchair table tennis ace who headed to Beijing for Paralympics, was quoted by local daily The Jordan Times on Sunday.

In Sydney 2000, Barghouti won the first Paralympic gold medal for Jordan. She was named Arab Athlete of the Year in 2001 and voted Jordan's top sports person of 2002.

Starting to play table tennis and athletics in 1986, Barghouti said: "Competing in sports gave me a life. And that's what I urge parents with disabled children to do."

"When any disabled person gains confidence and has the support of the family, they can easily convince others that they are not a burden," she added.

Jordan's Paralympic athletes headed to Beijing on Friday to take part in the 13th Paralympic Games which will be held September 6-17.

The kingdom's athletes will compete in table tennis, power lifting and athletics.

The first time Jordan's flag was hoisted during an Olympic event was at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta when Imad Gharbawi won a silver medal in the discus.

The crowning achievement was in Sydney 2000 when Barghouti won Jordan's first gold medal. Two medals were added in Athens 2004 when Jamil Shibli won silver in shot put while the women's table tennis team won bronze.


Beijing Paralympic Torch Relay held in central China's Wuhan

The Paralympic torch relay continued its journey in Wuhan on Sunday as the second leg of the "Modern China" route.

The opening ceremony started at about 8 a.m. at Wuhan Sports Center. Sixty torchbearers, including 11 disabled, ran in the three-kilometer-long relay.

The first runner, Cheng Yu, is a disabled former athlete from national team. She is the champion of women's team table tennis in Seoul 1988 Paralympic Games.

The torch was passed on in Wuhan economic and technological development zone, of which rapid economic growth has surpassed thirty percent in recent five years.

The cauldron was set ablaze in warm cheers by the final carrier Wen Qing, who was crowned as the "wheelchair princess" and won more than 50 medals on wheelchair racing in the worldwide games for handicapped during past 15 years.

This relay also became a grand festival of 438,000 disabled of the city. Splendid shows were later performed by the disabled, including the famous Chinese conductor Zhou Zhou, to display their consistent spirit and optimistic attitude on life.

More than 2,400 disabled were also invited to enjoy the performance and share the happiness of sacred flame relay. "The torch relay makes me feel the joys of festival," a disabled audience said.

To ensure the disabled fully enjoy the relay, the government has recruited more than 200 volunteers to provide them better services, such as accompanying the torchbearers to pass on the torch, serving all coming disabled food and water, and providing more convenient equipment.

With a population of more than eight million, Wuhan serves as the gateway to China's hinterlands in central China's Hubei province. As its outstanding geographic advantage, it is also nicknamed the "thoroughfare to nine provinces".

Yangtze and its biggest tributary Hanjiang River meet downtown Wuhan and cut the city into three parts of Wuchang, Hankou and Hanyang.

With great economic development results in recent years, the city has become one of the new batch of economic reform experiment zones in China.

The Beijing Paralympic torch relay will cover 13,181 kilometers in nine days passing eleven torch relay cities which are selected from provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities of China.

The Paralympic torch relay was carried out along two routes, namely the route of "modern China" and the route of "ancient China". "Modern" route covers Shenzhen, Wuhan, Shanghai, Qingdao, Dalian and Beijing, the "ancient" has Xi'an, Hohhot, Changsha, Nanjing and Luoyang.


"Wheelchair princess": torch relay makes my Paralympic dream come ture

"The torch relay makes my Paralympic dream come true ," said Wen Qing, who was crowned as "wheelchair princess", also the last torchbearer in Beijing Paralympic Torch Relay Wuhan leg on Sunday.

As the forerunner of Chinese wheelchair racing sport, the 42-year-old Wen has won more than 50 medals in the worldwide games for handicapped in past 15 years. Until now, she has still held many records on wheelchair racing in Asia.

When Wen was one year old, she fell off the bed and broke her left leg. Later She became a worker in printing plant of Wuhan Iron and Steel Company, and began her glorious sports career from 1989.

Nevertheless, it is a regret for her not getting a medal in Paralympic Games. "When hearing that I was selected to be the Paralympic torchbearer, I was so excited and could not sleep overnight," she said.

Besides, her student Liu Wenjun who has won many golds of international weelchair marathon games, will also compete in four events of the Beijing Paralympic Games.

"I sincerely hope the sacred flame can illuminate her coming path and help her gain good results during the games," Wen said.