When you’re featured on the CCTV daily news, it’s safe to say you’ve made it. 3-year-old Wang Wuka from Anhui province plays snooker for five hours a day, under the watchful eye of his father. His claim to fame is that he can pot 15 balls in 10 seconds, though I’m more impressed by some of his long-range potting, given his size. China’s bona fide snooker star Ding Junhui recently talked about wanting to become an alien, due to the pressures that come with representing China, but Mr Wang clearly thinks this is his family’s route to riches. Even China’s golf prodigies aren’t this young. Burnout, anyone?
Tiger Woods and Ye Shiwen might make an unlikely couple, but both are prime examples of athletes who have lost their sporting mojos. This week’s Sports Talk column looks at why athletes struggle to get back to their top of their game after losing form:
We tend to think of sports as being a purely physical pursuit, but at the very top levels, it’s far more about mental strength than anything the body can do. Just as a novelist can get writer’s block and be paralyzed for months, once an athlete loses their sporting mojo, it can be very hard to retrieve.
Lists like SportsPro magazine’s Most Marketable Athletes [full list below] are equal parts inspired and enraging. I love the fact that Brazilian Paralympian Alan Oliveira (no. 17) is included, combining his age, talent and good looks with the undoubted boost to Brazilian sport that the next World Cup and Olympics will bring, almost as much as I hate the selection of Seth Jones (39), who is largely unknown even within his own sport, and, at 18, may not even play a single NHL game in the next three years even if he later develops into an All-Star.
Yao Ming is sadly no longer with us. The seven-week-old giraffe in Houston named after the Chinese NBA star was put down after a month-long bone infection couldn’t be treated. Sorry for leading with a tearjerker – I promise the other stories will be more cheerful!
All sports stars feel pressure to a certain extent, but when you’ve got the hopes of 1.3 billion people weighing on you, that pressure can become suffocating. China’s greatest sportsmen and women all either compete in individual events (Liu Xiang, Li Na, Lin Dan etc) or are head and shoulders above anyone else on their team (literally, in Yao Ming’s case), and so they rarely, if ever, have the chance to share that burden.