Contrite Guo returns to squad

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 January, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 January, 2005, 12:00am

Olympic hero Guo Jingjing has returned to the Chinese national squad for the first time since September after making an impassioned plea to be accepted back on to the team.

The double Olympic gold medallist in Athens had failed to return to training despite being repeatedly warned by Chinese diving authorities that she faced expulsion.

Since winning gold medals in the women's three-metre springboard and synchronised springboard, the Olympic champion has been fulfilling numerous lucrative endorsement contracts - and lapping up a luxurious lifestyle as well as being romantically linked with the rich and famous.

But the 23-year-old Guo, who also won two silvers at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, told diving authorities that she regretted taking so much time away from the pool and she was ready to train hard again. She resumed training on Monday. 'When I was very young, I grew up in a diving environment. This is my family. Diving is my life and I must return to my family,' said a remorseful Guo yesterday.

'After the Olympics, I had so many commitments and I didn't follow the advice of the diving team that I should return. I know I belong to the national team and I have already started training. I must be a good role model for the younger generation of divers.'

Chinese diving authorities were at first unimpressed by Guo's long absence.

But the Chinese diving federation has accepted her back to the team. 'She knows she has done wrong and she has returned to training. She is training very hard too, so all is forgiven. She knows she was wrong,' said a senior Chinese diving official.

Tian Liang, Guo's 25-year-old boyfriend before their unofficial split a few months ago, has failed to return to the pool.

He is also fulfilling a number of lucrative endorsements following his success in the pool in Athens, where he won gold in the men's synchronised event.

It is unclear when Tian would return to the team. 'We don't know what to do with Tian Liang. He hasn't admitted his mistake,' said a senior diving official.