This time last year I was spending my time at the Wuhan Institute of Physical Education. The fairly large university (7,000+ students) located in the capitol city of Hubei Province, China is dedicated to sports training and sports education. Students can major in basketball, ping-pong, dance, journalism, business, English and many other fields. The majority of the students study sports which makes for a pocket of larger sized Chinese. I can walk around Wuhan and be noticeably taller than most people, but here on campus I comfortably fit in with the sizable student body. The school is also host to China’s national rowing team and some young gymnasts in training. Let me tell you, these guys are all about quantity when it comes to training. The crew team is up with the sun and trains all day. Even the “universities basketball team” (which I cannot really figure out because they never play other teams, only inter-squad) runs and scrimmages all day. From my viewpoint they could really conduct a more effective and efficient practice, but I understand this is the way they like to do it China. In all sports in all levels, the theory is to get better you just train harder, not necessarily smarter. Obviously it has produced some good results in international competition (the school has training many Olympic gold metal winner, including Yang Wei) but it seems there are better ways. It was interesting to see how vastly different their basketball practices are compared to what I remember. In China the team practices together instead of doing individual drills. Most drills just seem to be a type of war of attrition, running up and down the court until you are completely exhausted. General wisdom would say this actually produces and practices poor technique, as the athletes tire, but they seem to just bulldog through it.
Anyway, I had fun playing basketball with the students and by the end of my time there I was getting my game senses back and was able to shoot a little better (it had probably been about eight years since I played a game before coming to China) and they taught me a fair amount of Chinese profanities. At the beginning of summer I filmed a walking tour of campus, which I will attach below. The video is way too long for one download so I cut them into three segments. I know the camera is really shaky and not the best quality, but it might be interesting to some of you to see the campus of a Chinese sports university. It has only been a few months since this video was shot, but by the time you view it the campus will have changed a lot. That is the way things are in Chinese cities nowadays. Cranes are up everywhere and the old cities are being erased while a new image is being penciled in its place.
Can you see these videos? Leave me a comment, I think there might be a problem.
Here is the Youku version (not as high resolution) because YouTube does not like my music choice and has disabled the audio.
HERE is a link to Part 2 of 3 Youku version for all you Chinese viewers without access to Youtube.
HERE is a link to Part 3 of 3 Youku version for all you Chinese viewers without access to Youtube.
And some photos.
Meet my friend Charles Ross. This is one of our buddies from the 2009 National Senior Games in Palo Alto, CA. This fella would come by our booth everyday. When you asked him how he was doing he’d reply with a whooping “I’mmmmm grrrrreeeaaat!” while making a hooked arm motion to exclaim the point. In other words he was awesome. Some of my co-workers asked him to take a picture with them. But he did not have his medals with him and would not take a photo without his medals. The next day he would returned with medals in tow. You could hear them clanking down the sidewalk from half a mile away. With all this weight around his neck and the medals dangling at his pulled up belt he could barely hook swing his arms while declaring “I’mmmmm grrrrreeeaaat!”.
Charles is one of the many amazing individuals who participate in the Senior Olympics. The Games are full of these characters. One minute they will be cursing me straight out of a Charles Dickens book the next showering me with invitations to date their granddaughters. Roger Gentilhomme was another of those characters. 100 years old and still out on the tennis courts. He was a Senior Games celebrity… stopping for pictures with all the ladies.
If you want to find inspiration in life there are many places to look. One of the best places I’ve found is the National Senior Olympics.
In the evenings I would go for a run around Stanford University in the shadows of their achievements. It’s good to keep that kind of company.