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    Tian strikes back against officials
Zhao Rui
2006-03-18 07:27

China's star diver Tian Liang said he did not understand the country's swimming officials, who refused to let him return to the national team.

"As a veteran athlete, I need respect and I am now dying for the excitement of standing on the Olympic podium," he said.

Speaking to a press conference on Wednesday, Zhou Jihong, China's national diving team manager, said the team doesn't have any plans to recall Tian, saying that the 27-year-old diver should be responsible for his misbehaviour.

"What kind of mistake did I make?" cried Tian, during the book release in Beijing on Tuesday for his autobiography The Shining Ten Years. "I don't understand their decision."

Now training with the Shaanxi provincial team, Tian - the Olympic gold medallist in 10-metre platform in the 2000 Sydney Games and the synchronized platform in Athens in 2004 - has been kicked out of China's national team for taking "too many commercial activities" and for refusing to come back to the team after the Athens Olympics.

The Swimming Administrative Centre (SAC) subsequently announced last year that it would expel him from the national team on January 26.

The SAC said that part of these business activities were not approved because according to its regulation, any business endeavours profitable to the athletes must first get the green light.

But Tian denied their accusations.

"The officials disbanded the national team on October 25 in 2004, and then we all went back to provincial teams," said Tian. "So I was part of the Shaanxi team, not the national team."

"I did take some commercial activities, but I got the permission from the Shaanxi Sports Bureau... so which regulation did I break?

"It's much like the situation if I once worked in HP and then moved to IBM, but HP suddenly came to me some day and said I broke their rules. It doesn't make sense."

The deadlock appeared ready to dissolve when the National General Sports Administration head Liu Peng visited Shaanxi Province to watch Tian's training last December.

And the speculation then heated up as the China Basketball Administration Centre leading official met China's 2.16 metre centre Wang Zhizhi for his return during the NBA All-star weekend in the United States, and the Tennis Administrative Centre picked up Peng Shuai for the national team last November.

But the SAC head Li Hua said they would not deal with other athletes in the same way.

"I heard two sounds - that really made me confused," said Tian. "Liu encouraged me very much when he came to my gym in Shaanxi, but now I don't know which official I can follow."

(China Daily 03/18/2006 page12)


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