A big splash

PUBLISHED : Friday, 14 June, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 June, 2002, 12:00am

NATIONAL DIVER Yu Yuet is out to prove to the world that he is a sportsman with brains.

'People usually think an athlete is physically strong but simple-minded,' he says. 'I'm fed up with that.'

The 26-year-old diver, who represented the SAR in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, is the author of a book that describes the struggles of 10 Chinese athletes including fellow divers and Olympic medallists Guo Jingjing and Tian Liang, gymnast Sang Lan, footballer Li Weifeng and ice-skater Yang Yang. The book is set to be released in mid-October.

'I want people to know that athletes can excel in other areas, and we have our own aspirations as well,' he says with determination.

Apart from diving, Yu, who is studying physical education and recreation management at Baptist University, is talented in other areas. Earlier this year, he became a broadcaster for a local Putonghua radio station, a host for a sports programme on TV, as well as a writer for a men's magazine.

While his book presents a good opportunity to change the public's impression of sportsmen, Yu says this is not his ultimate goal.

'There have been too many sad stories about how young people have surrendered their lives in recent years,' he says. 'I want to do something to deliver a positive, encouraging message to youngsters, and I think writing a book is one of the most direct ways. It would have a long-term effect on the readers.'

With the stories of the sportsmen, Yu hopes local youth will learn that there are ups and downs in life, and plenty of obstacles and failures along the road to success.

'People always see the flamboyant side of successful athletes, but they usually can't see the bitter side.

Or they forget about the effort they've put in,' he says.

The Shanghai-born diver knows how hard it is to be a sportsman on the mainland. At the tender age of six, he joined a sports school where he trained eight hours a day, six days a week.

'The coaching on the mainland is really strict and tough; it's not something that Hong Kong children could take,' he says. 'However, it was good training for me, and it made me a tougher person.'

In 1989, aged 13, Yu moved with his parents to the SAR. This presented another major challenge for him as he found it difficult to fit in.

'At that time, I had to catch up with both Cantonese and English, and there were lots of other problems. I often got tired of handling these problems,' he says.

But with endurance, he pulled through.

But Yu's darkest period was not to come until three years ago.

He recalls: 'Suddenly, I lost my direction - I missed training sessions - nothing seemed right to me. It was like I was giving up.'

But thanks to his friends and family, Yu managed to pull himself together and qualified for the Olympic Games.

'Without having gone through that period, I wouldn't be the person that I am today,' he says. 'I learned to treasure the things I had, and I've become even stronger.'

Yu hopes to get involved in the 2008 Olympics - but probably not as a sportsman. 'It's a rare chance for Beijing to host the Olympics, and it would be an honour to be part of preparing for the event,' he says.