UW-Madison Department of Kinesiology - 2010 On the Move - Department News - Kinesiology Hosts Chinese Champions

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They may be well-known in their native China, but the group of elite student-athletes and coaches who are living and studying at UW-Madison this fall are blending in and immersing themselves in the life of UW-Madison students.

They even have their own Chinese Bucky Badger T-shirts, given to them by Chancellor Biddy Martin during a welcome picnic Monday evening at Olin House.

“I decided that each of the athletes and coaches need a Bucky shirt that’s symbolically Wisconsin and also Chinese,” Martin told the group as she gave them the shirts.

The athletes and coaches are part of the inaugural Chinese Champions Program, a first-of-its-kind collaboration that was jointly announced by Martin and Beijing Sports University officials during a meeting in Beijing in March. China’s People’s Daily Online reported last week that this is the first time such a large group of former athletes has been sent abroad to study.

Professor Li Li Ji came up with the idea for the program two years ago when Chinese officials were looking for ways to help former Olympians and other top athletes develop post-athletic careers and prepare them for international leadership positions in sports, he said.

“The government started to pay attention to career development of former athletes and to emphasize their education and training,” Ji said.

At the same time, the initiative is helping UW-Madison expand its global reach, Martin said.

“It gives students, whether they’re from Wisconsin or some other part of the United States, more exposure to students from other parts of the world – and not just any students, but students who’ve achieved what these Olympic athletes have achieved,” Martin said. “We’re just extraordinarily excited about it.”

The nine athletes and coaches thanked Martin for her support for the program, presenting her with a signed photo of the group and a scroll of Chinese calligraphy art.

“We will improve our English and professional skills to a new level, and of course we will have a wonderful time at UW-Madison,” Lu Xiudong, coach of the Chinese national taekwondo team, told the group of about 200 guests who attended the picnic. After an informal program, the athletes posed for pictures and chatted with guests at the picnic.

Since the athletes arrived in late July, they’ve spent three days each week focusing on such themes as the American university system, collegiate sports and sports medicine, in addition to taking English as a Second Language classes.

They’ve also found time to explore such area attractions as the Wisconsin Dells and Devil’s Lake State Park, Ji said.

During the fall semester at UW-Madison, the group will continue taking classes in Kinesiology and English as a Second Language, as well as doing internships focusing on training, coaching and events management. The group will be in Madison until Dec. 15.

Stacy Forster, UW Communications

Photo: Bryce Richter

Chancellor Biddy Martin (right) is presented with an autographed group photo by a group of nine Chinese student-athletes at a welcome event at Olin House. The nine athletes, two of whom are also coaches, are staying in Madison until Dec. 15 as part of a unique exchange with Beijing Sports University, the foremost sports, physical education and exercise science institution in China.

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