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China, France embrace more future cooperation in sports

Xinhua | Updated: 2018-01-11 11:11

PARIS - With their capitals Beijing and Paris to host 2022 Winter Olympic Games and 2024 Summer Olympic Games, respectively, China and France, two sports giants in the world with over 8,000 kilometers apart, can expect more cooperation in the future.

As the first overseas office founded by French Football Federation (FFF) and French professional football league (LFP), the Chinese office, established in February, 2017, undertakes the mission of promoting French football training system, French domestic leagues and cups and French national team's matches, and interaction and cooperation with China.

Six months later, 17 Chinese youngsters were entitled to an eight-day experience in Clairefontaine, French national team's training base.

Apart from world-class facilities and nutritionally-balanced meals, Chinese promising football players also got a better understanding of tactics and improved their vision and team spirit on the pitch, following the guidance of Dominique Bijotat, who was a manager of several Ligue 1 clubs and involved in youth training for several decades.

To further consolidate cooperation, Shankai Sports, who run Chinese youngsters' overseas training camp, signed a cooperation agreement with Clairefontaine, opening a gate for more Chinese teenagers to experience top level youth training at first hand.

Along with going overseas to learn, China is striving to introduce some sports and competitions from France, with its own characteristics.

Slackline, famous in France over the past decades, has also enjoyed popularity in China in recent years. Slackline challenges have been held in several Chinese scenic spots, attracting many top athletes from around the world, also displaying China's splendid scenery to the world.

The same scenario was for RAID, a tournament consisting of mountain cycling, canoeing and cross-country running famous in European countries, especially in France, for over 50 years.

As one stage for RAID International Adventure Race Series, the first RAID tournament in China was held in Huizhou, Anhui Province in last September.

"Featuring mountain and water, where participants undertook their challenges, RAID has a close link with people's quest for healthy way of life," said Xiao Yang, general manager of Cherry Sports, who introduced the competition to China.

"We hope that the competition can become a name card for hosting cities," he added.

China have set their unsurmountable position in world table tennis, with 28 out of possible 32 gold medals since the sport was introduced to the Olympic Games back in 1988.

How to promote table tennis around the world? That was a question lingering the Chinese team after the 2012 Olympic Games.

On the other hand, France, who suffered a slump following Jean-Philippe Gatien's retirement, struggled back to their glory, and was quite eager for a top level coach from China.

After the World Championships in Paris in 2013, Chinese and French Table Tennis Associations reached an agreement on sending one Chinese coach to take over the French men's team.

Han Hua, who was a Chinese national team's coach for more than a decade, then arrived in France to take over the position at the end of the year.

Step by step, Han emphasized on balanced technical development for French paddlers while sticking to their own advantages, and attached great importance to paddlers' mentality.

Han's efforts began to pay off. Apart from team runners-up at the 2015 European Games and quarter-finalists at the 2016 World Team Championships, France also saw their two paddlers Emmanuel Lebesson and Simon Gauzy into the final at the 2016 European Championships, where Lebesson won the first singles title for France in 40 years.

Han, whose initial contract with French Table Tennis Association expired after the Rio Olympic Games, extended for another four years until Tokyo Olympics.

"I hope that with my effort, cooperation between two associations will get deeper in the future," said Han.

Zhu Hongbin and his wife Liu Fang were Chinese paddlers in 1990s. The couple currently worked in a table tennis club with over 400 members in Paris.

Zhu noticed a significant increase in French people's love for table tennis.

"After Paris became the host for the 2024 Olympic Games, France and China are set to work closer in sports," he said.

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