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Shanghai looks for next sports icons

By Wang Zhenghua | China Daily | Updated: 2013-05-25 08:42

Yao Ming has retired. Liu Xiang has an injured Achilles tendon and his future is up in the air, so who will be the next sporting superstar from Shanghai?

According to the Shanghai Municipal Sports Bureau, he or she may be among 3,000 talented youngsters the city has chosen to develop their skills.

The birthplace of former NBA center Yao and star hurdler Liu is building a database that will comprise 3,000 children - aged between 10 and 12 - who have great sporting potential.

Nicknamed the "young eagles plan", the program will encourage coaches across the city to search for and collect information about talented primary school students. After that, the sports bureau will appoint a special group to keep track of them and try to assist them in becoming elite athletes.

The target children are boys at 1.9 meters or taller and girls at 1.8 meters or above, Li Yuyi, the city's sports bureau chief, said in an online interview on Monday.

"We will start tracking them from now," Li said. "A person will be deployed to follow the child after he or she is discovered. I believe that in about five to six years a group (of elite athletes) will emerge."

It won't be easy to unearth another sporting great, Li admitted.

"It's really hard to find an international star like Yao," he said. He also used Liu, 30, as an example of an athlete whose family originally opposed the idea of him taking part in competitive sports.

A native of Shanghai's Putuo district, Liu was chosen to practice hurdling as a grade four student in a primary school.

Liu is likely to miss this year's track and field season as he undergoes treatment in the United States on his Achilles.

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