Taiwan will be at Beijing Games, says Chi

PUBLISHED : Friday, 04 April, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 04 April, 2008, 12:00am

For Olympic medal winner and former world-record holder Chi Cheng, there can be no question of her native Taiwan being absent from the Beijing Games.

Chi, whose heyday as a sprinter and hurdler was the 1960s and '70s, was in Hong Kong in her role to promote the 2009 World Games.

She brushed off concerns that Taiwan would miss August's extravaganza in Beijing, concerns which arose out of a statement by the island's president-elect Ma Ying-Jeou where he said a pullout was possible if the situation in Tibet continued to deteriorate.

'He was using election language, but I have never doubted that Taiwan will appear at the Beijing Olympic Games,' said Chi, who won a bronze medal in the women's 80 metres hurdles at the 1968 Mexico City Games.

'Sport funding has kept growing in Taiwan over the past few years, with the Beijing Olympics the major target,' Chi said. 'And even the president-elect himself is a keen runner and knows clearly the importance of sport to the health of people. There is no way that we are not going.'

Taiwan won two gold medals at the Athens Games in 2004, both in taekwondo. According to Chi, they are keen to repeat that level of performance in Beijing and Chi said they also have medal hopes in baseball, softball and women's archery.

Widely regarded as Asia's top female track and field athlete of the 20th century, Cheng, now 64, is chief executive of the organising committee. With a budget of HK$600 million, the 2009 Games will be held in Kaohsiung on July 16-26, featuring 33 mainly non-Olympic sports such as billiards, tenpin bowling, bodybuilding, wushu and indoor hockey.

Chi studied in the US at California State Polytechnic University in Pomona where she received most of her athletic training during the '60s. She won four US national championships and was the winner of 153 of the 154 events (sprints, hurdles, long jump and relays) she entered over a two-year period from 1969-1970.

After clinching a bronze medal at the Mexico City Olympic Games in 1968, she set world records in the 100m and 200m and tied the world record for 100m hurdles all in the space of one week in 1970.

With such a great resume in hurdles events, Chi is well placed to comment on today's king of the discipline, Liu Xiang.

'To do well in the 110 metres hurdles, you need both speed and technique and he [Liu] has both,' Chi said. 'The sport has been dominated by Caucasians or black people, but Liu has broken their dominance to show a Chinese athlete is also able to do well. His achievement is the pride of all Chinese.

'At the Beijing Olympic Games, he will have great pressure on his shoulders as the defending champion world record holder running in front of the home crowd. But I am sure he can cope. I remember seeing him run in the Golden League competition in Shanghai a couple of years ago and he was so composed that you could tell from his eyes even before the race that he was going to win it.

'And of course he did win that race. In Beijing, he will probably be in the same situation - heated atmosphere, tough opponents, huge home crowd support - but if he can maintain his level of performance, he will certainly be able to make it again.'

Chi missed the 1972 Munich Olympics because of a leg injury, and was forced to retire from the sport two years later at the age of 29. After returning to Taiwan from the US, she was appointed the secretary-general of the Taiwan Track and Field Association and subsequently the chairman until 1993. Chi seldom runs on the track nowadays, preferring to walk regularly.

'Walking is a very good exercise and I do 10,000 steps a day.'