Even while attending an all-important political event in Beijing, coach Sun Haiping's mind is on 110m hurdles world champion Liu Xiang.
Before he left for Beijing to attend the Party congress, which started yesterday, Sun had set a training plan for Liu.
But the Shanghai native still worries about Liu, and has tried his hardest to find time to call the athlete, making sure everything is going well.
"Honestly, I regard Liu as my son, and I don't even care about my own daughter as much as I do for him," Sun said.
Sun said Liu was stronger than in previous years and that the hurdler has spared no efforts in his preparations for the upcoming 2008 Beijing Olympics, but it was difficult to predict if Liu would break the record again.
"Sports is unpredictable - weather, wind velocity and an athlete's condition all contribute to a result, it's about strength and luck," he said.
He admitted both of them feel pressure because of the public's soaring expectations.
"I tell Liu to forget about all the achievements he has got, and to start from scratch. For a champion competing like it's the first time is more positive than trying to hold on to your position," he said.
He said Liu has not suffered any injuries this year. "However, he might be injured if we continue to explore his potential, this is what I am worried about most at present."
A supportive training team has been set up just for Liu, including a doctor who provides 24-hour medical support.
Sun said the life of an athlete is somewhat boring, and Liu can never go shopping and hardly ever leaves his home.
"Liu is always in the public eye, both in China and overseas. I am trying to adjust his intense timetable and let him take a break," Sun said.
Sun denied stopping Liu from having a girlfriend.
"I will never be against him having a girlfriend," he said. "But what I would like to suggest is that he doesn't find one now, while he still faces so much. To my knowledge, he doesn't have one at present."
When asked if he has found a good successor for Liu, Sun said he has several potential teenage athletes, but currently his focus is still on Liu. Training a female athlete is an option, he added.
(China Daily 10/16/2007 page5)