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High hopes

Updated: 2012-07-10 09:30
By Tang Zhe ( China Daily)

High hopes

Athlete-turned-author Zhao Ruirui says imagination inspires her fantasy fiction. Her second book (pictured below) is Caiyu Xia. Cui Meng / China Daily

Related: Athlete authors

Olympic volleyball player Zhao Ruirui is developing a new career as a popular fantasy fiction novelist. Tang Zhe reports in Beijing.

When Zhao Ruirui retired from volleyball in 2010 she surprised her family and friends by publishing the fantasy fiction novel Moshi Huanxing (Awakening the Doomsday, published by Shenzhen-based Haitian Publishing House) in March 2011.

"My elder sister wondered how come I didn't write an autobiography instead. She thought it was strange for me to write fantasy fiction - it's just too far away from reality," Zhao recalls. "But I like to imagine."

With vivid prose and illustrations, the book is about fairies and guardian angels uniting to defeat evil and save the world.

Now the 31-year-old has produced a second book, Caiyu Xia (Colored-Feather Hero), published by Beijing Lianhe Publishing House in June.

The novel's hero, Caiyu Xia, is an alien who helps eradicate demons on Earth.

The transition from star athlete to fantasy fiction writer has not been easy.

"Some people suspected the story was not written by me, while others asked, 'How can someone who used to run and jump everyday suddenly sit down for hours to write," Zhao says.

"To express my ideas with the pen really was a challenge."

An enthusiast of comic books like Saint Seiya, Dragon Ball and She-Ra Princess of Power, Zhao says she grew up with a powerful imagination.

One day Zhao's sister returned from school to find her directing and acting in a pretend TV series. "She laughed at me and I was a little embarrassed," Zhao admits.

Her interest in drawing and reading comics grew, even as an athlete.

"Sometimes I just sit and draw for hours, unaware of the passing of time.

High hopes

"When I lose inspiration, I usually find an object, sit down and look at it, and then the story will come naturally."

Born to a family of volleyball players, Zhao followed in their footsteps and joined the People's Liberation Army Bayi Volleyball Youth Team in 1994, at the age of 13.

She was called up to the national team in 1999 and in the following 10 years won many titles, including the Olympics, Women's Volleyball World Cup and Grand Prix.

After being a volleyball player for 16 years, Zhao was expected to remain in the sport and perhaps become a coach.

Yet, Zhao decided to chase her dream of being an author, which she calls "a huge blow to her family".

"They were strongly against the decision to give up my position in the army.

"I told myself I must work hard to prove to my parents and others that I can earn a better life, even though I had left volleyball."

Fortunately for Zhao, her books have been well received.

"When I read her first book I was overwhelmed by her colorful ideas and writing talent," says Beijing resident Li Yingyan, who has followed her volleyball career since 2001.

"She made considerable improvements in the second book, which has a tighter structure. Once I started reading, I couldn't stop.

"We always read stories about foreign super heroes, but now we have our own hero, Caiyu Xia. I can also appreciate Zhao's philosophy on life, such as the power of maternal love, the support of friends and a longing for peace and justice.

"I hope her works will make it to the big screen," Li says.

Zhao says she is improving as a writer as she becomes more confident and has already started her third book. She is also planning to write a story about volleyball.

"Writing is a turning point of my life. I reached the heights in volleyball, but I am just a beginner when it comes to writing.

"Even so there are a lot of opportunities for me to develop and I expect a lot from writing."

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