New attraction for women's basketball
Updated: 2012-08-02 07:48:38
By Chen Xiangfeng in London ( China Daily)
Angolan forward Felizarda Jorge (right) vies with Chinese guard Zhao Shuang during a women’s preliminary round Group A match at the London Olympics on Wednesday. China won, 76-52, to improve to 3-0 and secure a spot in the top eight. MARK RALSTON / AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
With a roster chock-full of players who are either a little too young or a little too old, they'd like to fly under the radar and avoid comparisons to the team that took fourth place at the Beijing Games.
Twenty-two-year-old Zhao Shuang might ruin that plan.
The media in London are already calling Zhao one of the most beautiful athletes in the Chinese contingent. She's also caught the attention of the sport's governing body, FIBA, which featured her in a story about buddy stars.
Slim and shapely at 1.84m tall, her eye-catching photos on the Internet have put her in the company of popular female athletes like Maria Sharapova.
Zhao said she's been surprised at the attention after scoring 2 points with one assist in five minutes in her Olympic debut against Croatia on Monday.
"Are you sure you want to interview me? I only had 2 points," she smiled. "I appreciate it that so many people support me and cheer for me."
The name "Shuang" means frank and straightforward in Chinese, leading to the nickname Shuang Mei Zi (little sister Shuang).
She lives up to it on the court.
Zhao takes pride in her defense and found herself in the thick of the action on both sides of the floor as China won its third straight game on Wednesday against Angola.
Three rabid Chinese fans have attracted attention standing together with the words "Shuang Mei Zi" on their T-shirts at her games.
"I am eager to play - I didn't want to miss any game," said Zhao, who didn't play during the team's opener against the Czech Republic, which China won 66-57 on Sunday.
Zhao was given 13 minutes against Angola, in which she had 7 points and three assists as China advanced to the quarterfinals.
"I like the young players' attitudes, although they're still struggling to find their rhythm at times," said coach Sun Fengwu. "Zhao is energetic and has great potential."
Zhao was mostly unknown until she led her Shenyang Army team to the national championship, averaging 11.1 points and six rebounds during the 2010-11 season.
Sun was impressed, awarding her a spot on the national team's training camp in April.
She seized the opportunity, playing a number of big games in international tournaments before starting every game in last year's Asian Championship.
Zhao and her teammates won the title and claimed Asia's only ticket to the Olympic Games.
"Sometimes, young players have a hard time finding themselves on the court," Sun said. "So I ask them to calm down and give them more minutes, game after game. This is their first Olympic Games. We should not put too much pressure on them.
"Just let them play their game and learn from their mistakes. The Olympics are the best place to push them to mature as players."
Zhao knows a pretty face isn't going to get her anywhere on the court. If she wants to make it to the WNBA eventually, she'll have to push herself. Some of the league's scouts did take notice of her last year.
Former center Zheng Haixia, Sui Feifei and two members of the current team - Miao Lijie and Chen Nan - all made it to the WNBA.
Zhao might be next.