The gold medal winning performances at the Beijing Olympics by gymnast Huang Xu and diver Chen Ruolin have been very good for business for the Nantong Amateur Sports School for Children, its principal Xu Xinchun has said.
Since the pair, both residents of Nantong, Jiangsu province, became champions last week, the phones at their alma mater have hardly stopped ringing, Xu told China Business News in an interview published Saturday.
"Parents have shown a great interest in our school, as they want their kids to be champions in the future," he said.
Youngsters practice their skills on the parallel bars last Sunday at the Nantong Amateur Sports School. [Xinhua]
The school trains youngsters in table tennis, badminton, gymnastics, swimming, diving and trampoline, he said.
Sun Miao, deputy director of the Nantong sports bureau, said all towns like to be associated with an Olympic champion, as it inspires local people to get involved in sport.
"We are benefiting from the fact that lots of people in Nantong are involved in sport, and now we have two more Olympic gold medalists," he said.
As well as the wins for Huang and Chen, fellow Nantong resident Zhong Man, who trained at the Nantong Sports School, took gold in fencing in Beijing. All of them won on the same day, Aug 12.
Nantong has produced at least one gold medal winner at every Olympic Games since 1992, Sun said.
"We have a long tradition of mass participation in sports," he said.
For example, in the 1960s, authorities in Zhong`s hometown, Dagong, began encouraging local people to take part in sports in a bid to help them fight an outbreak of snail fever.
Four years later in 1964, 240 farmers took part in the town`s first ever sports meeting, and the event has been held every year since, he said.
Ni Shubin, deputy head of the Dagong town government, said: "This year, more than 5,000 people took part in the competition and every single family was represented.
"People here regard sport as a viable career option, just like teaching," he said.
Sun said: "We are always seeking to develop sports in ways that encourage mass participation, and not just focus on training a handful of champions."
Nantong has 111 different sports organizations and 44 sports clubs, all of which organize at least two events a year, he said.
Also, the proportion of local people who exercise three or more times a week for at least 30 minutes each time has risen from 40 percent in 2000 to more than 50 percent today, he said.
"We make mass participation our priority as it improves our chances of finding a future star.
"Then, once a local person becomes a champion, that encourages even more people to try to follow in their footsteps," Sun said.