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Deng Yaping heads panel to pick sporting greats
(China Daily)
Updated: 2005-03-04 10:21

Deng Yaping has been named one of the 10 best athletes in China no less than seven times, but as she comes to name others as the nation's best, she is realizing what a tough job it is to choose.

Chinese pingpong legend Deng Yaping, seen in this Feb. 28 picture, will serve as the selection panel president of the 2005 China Top Ten Benefiting Laureus Sports For Good Awards. [newsphoto]
The table tennis legend, with four Olympic golds and dozens of world titles behind her, will serve as the selection panel president of the 2005 China Top Ten Benefiting Laureus Sports For Good Awards.

The awards, which combine the traditional China Top Ten Athletes Award and the global Laureus Sports Award, will be decided at a grand gala on March 17 in Shenzhen.

Deng heads a five-member selection panel which includes Xu Haifeng, the country's first Olympic champion and veteran shooting coach, Yang Yang (A), double Winter Olympic gold medallist, Xie Jun, four-times chess world champion and gymnastic legend Li Ning, now a noted businessman. Choosing ten will be hard given the outstanding performances achieved by many Chinese athletes during the 2004 Athens Games.

"The Olympic achievements will be counted as much as possible, but it is very difficult to say who is the best among those Olympians," said Deng. She is currently the assistant director of the administration centre of sports equipment of the State General Administration of Sports.

The awards will include 11 categories - best male athlete, best female athlete, best disabled athlete, best male newcomer, best female newcomer, best coach, best team, best non-Olympic sports athlete, most popular athlete, best breakthrough and lifetime honour.

Competition is expected to be especially tough when it comes to making a selection in the best male and best female athlete categories where the current hottest of China's field elites are to be found.

"What we are looking for is a 'real' champion," said Deng. "Definitely results do most of the talking, but the winner should be an all-round sportsman or woman, one with a quality personality, spirit and social recognition."

Deng, who won China's Top Ten Athletes Award seven times, including six-times in a row in the 1990s, said she was stirred by the competitiveness of the awards, although she has been retired from professional sport for seven years.

"I know it will be a heart-stopping moment because I have been there," she said. "It was the most important award in my career and I think the award this time will be cherished by all the nominees."

There will be ten athletes battling for the best male and best female title. The Athens Olympic champion hurdler Liu Xiang and the Houston Rockets Chinese star centre Yao Ming are the overwhelming favourites in the male category, while Olympic champion swimmer Luo Xuejuan and champion diver Guo Jingjing lead the female contenders.

The best newcomer, best team categories have five candidates, while there will be 50 candidates vying to be named as the 10 most popular athletes.

Marek Ploch, the Canadian coach who lifted Meng Guanliang and Yang Wenjun to win China's first ever canoeing/kayaking Olympic gold medal in Athens, is the only foreign name on the candidates list. He is nominated in the best coach category.

Fans can cast their votes by mobile short messages or at www.sports.cn and the top three in each category will be invited to a gala in Shenzhen before the selection panel makes its final choice.

This is also the second time the 26-year-old China Top Ten Athletes have worked with the Laureus Sports Award.

"Now we have a bunch of world-known sporting stars. It is time for China's sports to go to the world," explained Deng.

Like Laureus, all revenue from award-related activities will go to a foundation managed by the selection panel to better help underprivileged regions improve there sports levels.

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