Japanese coach heading China censured for betraying country

By Yu Nan (chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2006-12-26 15:32

Japan's "godmother" of synchronized swimming Masayo Imura is set to sign a contract to coach the Chinese team in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Imura's decision has been the subject of much criticism in Japan, with many saying she is betraying her country, even though China's General Administration of Sports has kept a low profile of the decision, the China Youth Daily reported yesterday.

Japan's internally-acclaimed coach in synchronized swimming Masayo Imura said in the press conference that she has accepted the invitation of heading Chinese synchronized swimming team and was ready for signing a contract very soon in Japan, December 24, 2006 [sina.com]
The 56-year-old has been coaching Japan's synchronized swimming team since 1978, helping Japanese team win three golds, one silver and four bronze medals in Asian and Olympic Games over the past 30 years.

Imura officially announced her plan to become the head coach of the Chinese synchronized swim team during the recently-concluded Doha Asian Games. The news broke only days after China beat Japan, which had been the dominant power in Asian synchronized swimming, in both the pair and team events at Asian Games.

An anonymous officer didn't admit Masayo Imura has already arrived in Beijing and began to consult with Chinese sports administration on the contract until afternoon of Christmas day.

He further explained that the low-profile attitude was because of the Japanese public's reaction to the new contract.

Imura held a press conference in Japan, clarifying that she is not helping China to win against Japan, but would like to cultivate leadership to compete against non-Asian dominant powers like Europe, America, and Australia in the international synchronized swimming field. 

"I believe Japan's international profile and leadership in the sport will beneficial if a person from the country coaches the national team of an Olympic host," Imura said.

Yu Li, a senior official with the General Administration of Sports is critical of the constant reports on Imura's new contract.

"It is not the first time we have invited a foreign coach to coach the national team, "Yu said. "Why are you all so interested in it this time?"

Yu hoped the media wouldn't exaggerate Imura's capabilities, for the new coach is appointed to guide training irregularly.

"We didn't expect such a backlash from the Japanese public," Yu said. "It's common for a foreign coach to coach Chinese national team."

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Japanese coach heads Chinese swim team

"More importantly I'm concerned that so much coverage in the media will affect the Chinese coaches' passion for their work," Yu said.

Another officer at the China swimming center said that an agreement has yet to be reached.

The Chinese synchronized swimming team was previously considering Canadian or Russian coaches, but the training programs they set were not suitable for Chinese swimmers. The plan was thus delayed, another officer told the newspaper.

Imura picked China above four other countries, displaying a firm resolve to coach the Chinese team. Reporters will be invited to watch the swim team's training programs to get a taste of Sino-Japan cooperation.

Imura will head the national team soon, even though the details are still under discussion, the officer said.

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