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Hu Kai takes winning in his stride
By Ling Hu (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-08-31 06:10

Life would be different for a Chinese student if he emerged as a world champion.

hu kai
Hu Kai
But Hu Kai likes to live a simple life.

Coming back home from the 23th World University Games with a precious 100m gold medal under the belt last Tuesday, Hu, a student of Tsinghua University in China, has found himself in the spotlight.

He became the fastest man in the university games when he clocked up 10.30 seconds to take the men's 100-meter title in Izmir, Turkey.

The young Chinese student also won one of China's three track and field gold medals and is the first Asian man to win the 100m in the Games' history or any major international tournament.

To make the gold more significant, he has no experience as a full-time athlete, signalling the growing success of China's college sports compared with the nation's traditional sports training system which has been criticized for sacrificing education.

Despite the huge success, Hu is not ready to shift his focus from college life to a possible professional sports career even though he has a personal best of 10.27 seconds, just 0.1 shy of the national record.

With only one year left before graduation, Hu wants to live a normal life like other students.

"I still have one year until I graduate from Tsinghua. I don't think sports will be my career. I hope I will find a job in a foreign company," said Hu, saying that he is enjoying sports rather than hunting for a gold medals.

Hu's appearance is also more that of a student rather than a professional athlete.

He wears glasses everywhere, even when running because he was told by the doctors not to wear contact lenses.

"I got used to wearing glasses for training and running. I've been wearing glasses since I was 12 years old," said Hu, who is currently studying economics and management at Tsinghua University, one of China's top universities.

"As a Chinese university student, I am proud to win the gold for my school and for my country," added Hu.

Hu did not discover his sports potential as a sprinter until late in high school.

"I found my speciality in the third year of high school when I had a good result in the high jump. Then I was called up by the school's track and field team and had my first try at 100m," said Hu from Qingdao Third Middle School in Shandong Province.

Hu believes he is most influenced by his father, an avid sports fan and also a fast runner who could run 100m almost in 11 seconds.

hu kaiThanks to his natural speed, Hu gave impressive performances at the annual Tsinghua Winter Camp and was awarded a chance to take a College Entrance Examination.

"We have classes in the morning and training in the afternoon. We also have self-study at night in classes with other students," said Hu.

Hu has excellent grades at university and is also mastering English like so many other China's college students.

That allowed him to communicate freely with foreign competitors in Turkey while most of other team members had to be accompanied by interpreters.

Hu said it is important to make friends with students from other countries and show them how a Chinese student performs.

"For a professional athlete, a good competition result is a priority in a bid to gain money and a career. So they are under a lot of pressure.

"I'm not thinking about the future after graduation, and this helps me keep my cool when competing."

Hu has been invited to take part in next month's Shanghai Athletics Grand Prix, where he will have the chance to compete against newly crowned world champion Justin Gatlin of the US.

He and Wang will then represent Chongqing province as favourites for gold at the coming 10th National Games.

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