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.
Zou Shiming is a man with a thousand names this week. Known variously by his growing international entourage as Zoo, Zow, Zoe, Joe, Joo and Jow (and that’s before we even get to his given name), the boxer courteously responds to all and sundry with an infectious smile, and willingly answers the same questions over and over again, always giving full and thoughtful soundbites.
It’s this understated charm that may actually turn out to be more useful to Zou and his team than his boxing talents, which, after winning three Olympic medals (2 gold, 1 bronze), are already legendary.
I’ve already had people ask me what time David Beckham is arriving on Wednesday so they can camp out early at the airport. Whether he appeals to smitten females or potential soccer fans (or both), one thing is certain: Beckham’s visit to China will be crazy. Let’s just hope no one gets trampled….
Here’s my Sports Talk column from today’s Global Times on how he’s made a career out of proving the doubters wrong: