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Olympian Tian plunges off national diving team
By Chen Xiangfeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-01-27 06:36

Olympic diving champion Tian Liang has been kicked off the national team, the China Swimming Administration Centre announced Wednesday.

The 25-year-old diver, who has long been seen as the leader of nation's men's diving squad, has made frequent headlines after winning the men's synchronized platform title at Athens. He has spent months on red-carpet celebrations and packing his wallet with cash at numerous commercial promotions.

Olympic diving gold medalist Tian Liang[R] walks out of the training camp in Xi'an with coach Zhang Ting, January 26, 2005. [newsphoto]
When the Chinese team called back its divers to winter training camp in November after the team had two months of rest, Tian did not return on time.

According to the centre, Tian requested a half-year off to "adjust his body" and the national team acquiesced.

"But he remained involved in a number of commercial activities and some of them did not receive approval from the centre," said Li Hua, its director.

"Before the decision, we reached him and had a talk. But it is a pity that he didn't make himself clear that he would disobey the rules.

"As a high-profile athlete, he did not do enough to behave himself and he had some bad influences on society and on preparations for the 2008 Olympics," Li added.

Tian took tremendous criticism for his work with the Hong Kong entertainment giant, Emperor Entertainment Group, and plans to appear in movies, on TV and harbours hopes of a singing career.

According to reports, Tian had tried hard to explain his absences and was eager to rejoin the team, contacting provincial diving teams each time he was in their areas.

"I have always been ready to come back. I have made a self-reflection to Zhou Jihong (team manager) and Centre officials. The national team will be re-established in February and I am looking forward to a chance to be back," Tian was quoted in news reports as saying.

Tian at a loss

To further make himself clear, Tian made a public statement hours after the Centre's announcement.

"I was at a loss as what to do the moment I heard that I was not a member of the national team. I found it hard to accept it. But I will try to work hard and return to national team once again," he said in the statement.

"I will continue my career in 2005 and will do my best to win. My ultimate target is 2008 and I will not give up."

The statement also revealed that Tian's coach Zhang Ting was dropped from the national team after Athens for some unknown reason. It is believed that could be another main cause for Tian's absence from the squad.

Tian's shining smile has made him a favourite among fans and advertisers since the Athens Games, but he found himself in hot water when he planned to go to Malaysia for a photo shoot early this month, just as many celebrities were helping raise money for tsunami victims.

Tian's move immediately stirred nationwide condemnations.

Tian's agency later expressed their intention of donating revenue from the photo shoot to tsunami-stricken people, but Tian's image had already been tainted.

Guo Jingjing back

Unlike Tian, another big shot Guo Jingjing, who also has been at the centre of media spotlight, seems ready to come back to the women's national team.

"Guo will be a core member in 2008," manager Zhou said.

Zhou told reporters that Guo, whose love affair with Kenneth Fok Kai-kong, the grandson of Hong Kong business tycoon Henry Fok, is now one of the hottest topics in both sports and entertainment, expressed her intention to return to the national team at the end of last year.

Zhou also said Guo had made a self-reflection but Tian did not.

However, everything was going well for both of them just months ago.

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