KUNMING, May 3 (Xinhua) -- Lack of support. Limited training facilities. So what? It seems nothing could prevent Yi Jinhong chasing down his basketball dream.
The 27-year-old amateur hoops player, who practises jumping on flyovers, shocked thousands of spectators and a host of professional players at the Guangzhou Gymnasium on January 12 this year when he won the 2019-20 CBA All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk Contest as a wildcard entrant.
Yi hails from Yimen County, an underdeveloped area in southwest China's Yunnan Province. Despite the difficulties brought on by the COVID-19, he is setting himself a goal of jumping higher this year.
Childhood dream makes him "King of Dunk"
On January 12, the final of the CBA All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk Contest was held in Guangzhou, south China's Guangdong Province, where Yi shot to fame.
A slam dunk over the mascot netted him a full score of 50 points in the first round, and an impressive windmill dunk in the second round won him 45 points. A total of 95 points made him the first "grassroots" player to win the CBA's Slam Dunk Contest.
"Today I came here, standing for all the grassroots players," he said with tears in his eyes. "I really hope I can inspire them with a never-say-die spirit."
Standing just 1.78 meters tall - a diminutive size for a basketball player - he is able to dunk aggressively.
Prior to his participation in the CBA Slam Dunk Contest, Yi had already become an Internet sensation thanks to his graceful dunking skills, which has seen him termed the "Yunnan Glider".
Winning the contest is testimony to what Yi can achieve. Like other boys in his mountainous village, Yi's early ambitions were limited to joining his village basketball team.
"I've always dreamed of dunking. Despite difficulties along the way, I never quit," said Yi as he recalled winning the competition three months ago.
For him, chasing his basketball dream has been a rewarding and cheerful journey, if sometimes pockmarked with setbacks. "The training may be extremely boring, but I never feel lonely in pursuing my dream," he said.
"Glider" flying in from a mountainous village
It was when he was in junior high school that Yi saw a dunk on TV for the first time. The image of Michael Jordan dunking ingrained itself into his mind, and his devotion to the dunk grew increasingly.
"I want to dunk," Yi told himself again and again.
Since then, Yi started his own special training routine amid harsh conditions in the mountains where he lived. In later years, he did not have his own instructor, or even a basketball.
"I practised jumping by tying sandbags on my legs, running and jumping in the valleys, and I worked on my leg strength by leapfrogging on the stone steps," said Yi. But then he realized that, in addition to hard training, a better training environment was also needed.
Three years later, Yi enrolled at Yimen No. 1 Middle School and became a student with a special emphasis on sports, focusing on track-and-field events. The conditions for training were significantly improved, with systematic guidance from professional teachers.
In 2012, Yi got admitted to Yuxi Normal University. During his college days, apart from attending classes, he spent most of his time training and playing basketball.
"I would usually get up at 6am to practise before class, and my whole training would last for over 10 hours per day," Yi said.
In the second semester, Yi tried to dunk for the first time, and he succeeded. "I was only 1.75 meters tall at that time, and the feeling of flying was so wonderful," he said.
Yi couldn't stop after the amazing experience of his first dunk. Over the following three years, he practised even harder, which helped him jump even higher, with increasingly skillful dunks that increasingly brought him to people's attention.
No shortcut to dream
Last May, Yi quit his job at a state-owned enterprise and founded a sports company with his friends in Kunming, Yunnan's capital.
He devoted himself to building a sports platform, introducing professional events, delivering happiness to basketball lovers, and helping young people realize their basketball dreams.
"Basketball spirit involves devotion, perseverance, and gratitude," said Yi, who doesn't smoke or drink as he aims to keep in peak physical condition.
Yi has not stopped training since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, but exercised at home almost every day. With the epidemic now largely under control in China, he began to practise jumping on the flyover, and honed his shooting skills in the basketball stadium, aiming to jump higher and dunk better.
"More and more people ask me how to dunk as quickly as possible," Yi said with a smile, adding that non-stop training is the only way to a successful dunk.
"There is no shortcut to a dream. It requires strenuous effort," said Yi, who is now preparing to build indoor and outdoor basketball stadiums to carry forward basketball culture, and pass on the joy of basketball to more people.
Yi believes that only through hardship can we realize why we give thanks. "Ask not what society can do for me, ask what I should do for society. True happiness comes from giving back to society in my own way," he said. Enditem