HAPPY DAY: Jenny Lang Ping (fourth from left), head coach of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, celebrates with the team after they beat Cuba 3:1 in the semifinal, on August 21
On the evening of August 23, one day before the closing of the Beijing Olympics, the Chinese diving team was only one gold short of its dream. The last diving event was the men's 10 meters platform. The Chinese audience was confident that their divers would secure this gold.
The audience was stunned as Matthew Mitcham, an Australian, made a flawless last dive, and snatched the gold with a score of 112.10. It was only the second Olympic gold in men's diving ever won by Australia, 84 years after Richmond Eve won gold in men's platform diving at the 1924 Paris Games.
Mitcham, 20, can speak a little Chinese. His current coach, Tong Hui, is from China, and is now serving as head coach of the Australian diving team.
According to the State General Administration of Sport, since China first sent coaches to teach overseas in 1957, it has dispatched 2,547 coaches to 123 countries or regions in 36 events, including diving, table tennis and gymnastics. Some outstanding coaches have been appointed as head coaches of the teams they work for.
Raising the bar
This was not the first time one of Tong's disciples had taken gold from China. Chantelle Newbery, the Australian woman who claimed gold in the women's 10 platform at the 2004 Athens Games is also Tong's student.
While Tong was in China, he was a gold medalist in several major international competitions including the Asian Games, the World Cup and the World University Games. In 1987, he was named World's Best Man Platform Diver by the U.S. magazine Swimming World. After retiring from the Chinese team in 1989, Tong was invited to serve as a coach in a diving club in Canada. In 2001, he went to teach in Australia. Less than three years later, his student Newbery was decorated with an Olympic gold in the Athens. At the Beijing Games, Australia won silver in the women's 10 meters platform, losing only to China.
Several other Chinese-born coaches also came to Beijing's National Aquatic Center including Ma Jin, who coaches the Mexican diving team and Chen Wenbo, coach of the U.S. diving team.
Ma left China to coach the Mexican diving team six years ago. Her two Mexican students won the bronze in the women's synchronized 10 meters platform in Beijing, claiming the country's first Olympic diving medal in history.