Thursday, September 11, 2008

Rugby team glad to have 'coach mom'

When China's wheelchair rugby team faces its first opponent - the US - tomorrow, no one will be watching more closely than "coach mom" Wen Yan.

"Unlike coaching able-bodied athletes, working with us requires great patience, and more importantly, it requires great love," team leader Cheng Shuangmiao said.

That is apparently what Wen Yan offers to this team that is participating in the Paralympics for the first time.

Sporting a ponytail, the Beijing native looks much younger than her 57 years, and loves to address her team of paraplegic players as her "children".

"Everyday I am touched and inspired by their persistence. They teach me life lessons," she said, keeping a close eye on the athletes who were doing warm-up exercise at the Olympic Sports Center Gymnasium.

The rugby team was established last year and placed 19th in international competition.

"One thing is for sure. We have improved greatly in a short period of time," Wen said.

"The Paralympics is providing a great opportunity for us to learn from others. "

It was not an easy start. Rugby has been played in the West for decades, but was introduced to China only three years ago, Wen said.

When she first took up the job of coaching rugby, the only information she had was a book of rules and some DVDs of matches, she said.

"The accidents which caused their disabilities only lasted a few minutes, but have changed their entire lives," she said.

"They don't want to look back; they look to the future."

At the beginning, many of the players could not hold things in their hands, Wen said.

Training has enhanced upper body strength and endurance, Wen said.

"I think we are pushing the limits of medical science and they can do a lot of things that they couldn't do in the past. This is the power of sports," she said.

A former soldier, Wen coached basketball in the Beijing military region until 2005, when she began to instruct the Beijing disabled people's wheelchair rugby team.

Source: China Daily

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