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Hoops legend Yao embraces Olympic spirit

China Daily | Updated: 2022-01-19 09:08
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Yao Ming. [Photo/China Daily]

Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) president Yao Ming shared his enthusiasm for winter sports during a forum with journalists in Beijing on Monday.

Yao, who is a winter sports ambassador for Beijing 2022, kicked off the forum with his trademark sense of humor. "I want to skate but I'm having a hard time finding gear that fits me," quipped the former NBA and Team China star, who stands 2.26 meters tall.

A Shanghai native, Yao didn't see much snow or ice during his childhood. However, the Chinese basketball legend was a presenter as part of Beijing's bid for the 2022 Games in 2015. Honored but initially hesitating at the invitation, he recalled how he was inspired to assume the role by China's Olympic journey. The country sent its first athlete to the Summer Games in 1932, won its first Olympic gold medal in 1984, and later hosted the 2008 Olympics.

"Everything has gone from unfamiliar to familiar," said Yao. "We have been through a long journey."

Discussing the preparations for the Winter Olympics, Yao said that all preparatory work has been well-organized despite the lingering threat of COVID-19. He added that he was especially looking forward to the ice hockey competitions, and singled out short-track speed skater Wu Dajing and freeskier Gu Ailing as two of China's biggest medal hopes.

Asked about the biggest concern for Beijing 2022, Yao said he was afraid that the weather may be too cold for spectators. "However, the cold weather can be a benefit for the Games. It's the cold that makes the Games a 'Winter' Olympics."

Yao said he was confident that Beijing 2022 will be a big success, and, citing the Big Air snowboard and freestyle skiing Olympic venue at Shougang Park in Beijing, also hoped to see more ice and snow sports facilities in Shanghai in the future.

"I hope to see people skating on the Huangpu River in Shanghai. Beijing has Big Air Shougang, and we should bring one to Shanghai as well, maybe on the Oriental Pearl Tower," he said.


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