Olympic gold medallist Xu Lijia aims to popularize professional sailing in China

Source: Xinhua| 2017-08-28 20:45:52|Editor: Song Lifang
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LONDON, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- Despite having had a relatively long break from competitive sailing due to injuries, Xu Lijia, China's Laser Radial Olympic gold medallist, still keeps a close eye on China's sailing development, hoping that one day more professional sailing events can be launched there.

"I really hope that more Chinese sailors can participate in professional sailing competitions," Xu Lijia told Xinhua. She also expressed her hope that members of the national and provincial teams could be encouraged to compete in various professional sailing events besides the Olympic Games.

The 30-year-old sailor won a gold medal in the women's Laser Radial class in the sailing event of the 2012 Summer Olympics.

She said that when she started training for sailing in 1997 in China, like many locals, she was not very clear about what exactly sailing was.

But there has been an upward trend in the promotion and popularity of sailing competitions in the country in recent years, especially after Chinese sailors started winning medals in the Olympic Games, said Xu. "The potential is huge," she pointed out.

Shoulder injuries have prevented her from competing in recent events. After having surgeries on both her left and right shoulders earlier this year, she is in need of several months to fully recover.

The pain of her shoulder injuries is part of the reason why she previously decided to retire from competitive sailing, but after she met more international sailors in Britain, their long careers led her to believe that she might still be able to give it another try.

"Luckily in the sport of sailing, a sailor's career can be very long, for example one of the champions of the sailing events in the Rio Olympic Games is aged 54," said Xu.

"I think sailing is a great sport and if I can fully recover from my injuries and continue training in a more scientific way, hopefully my athletic career can be extended as long as possible," she added.

Xu is looking forward to competing in the Tokyo 2020 Games, although whether she will or not really depends on the progress of her recovery from the surgery.

But even when she is taking a break from competitions, sailing is still an important part of her life. While pursuing her college studies in Britain, Xu volunteered to work in the media team in the Extreme Sailing Series, act 6 of which was held in Cardiff Bay between 25 and 28 August.

As a noteworthy Olympic champion, she also finds time recording podcasts and writing blogs on sailing, in a bid to promote the sport to more people in China.

It still takes some time before sailing in China can become as popular a sport as in Britain where one can easily meet zealous sailing fans. "I think it is still a big challenge," said Xu.

Even if her physical condition will not allow her to compete at top-level sailing events in the future, she expects herself to play an active role in the promotion of sailing in China and elsewhere.

"I love sailing and it is a cause that I am most dedicated to. If I cannot compete as a professional sailor anymore, I would still like to find other ways to contribute to the sport of sailing," said Xu.