Helping hands
Foreign faces behind Team China’s success at Olympics
Published: Aug 05, 2021 09:48 PM
Sun Yiwen celebrates with her French coach Hugues Obry after winning in the women's epee individual gold medal bout at the Tokyo Olympics on July 24. Photo: IC

Sun Yiwen celebrates with her French coach Hugues Obry after winning in the women's epee individual gold medal bout at the Tokyo Olympics on July 24. Photo: IC


A key part of Team China's success in the Tokyo Olympic Games has been the 30 foreign experts from 19 different countries who have helped Chinese athletes and cheered on their stunning performances.

They have been an essential element in China's achievements, helping to identify weaknesses in the athletes and providing scientific training plans.

Chinese netizens have been happy to see the foreign coaches and were touched by their delight when seeing Chinese athletes winning medals or creating their best performances, like sprinters Su Bingtian and runner Wang Chunyu.

Randy Huntington, US, Athletics 

At the Tokyo Olympic Games, China has excelled in track and field events. Sprinter Su became the first Asian man in 89 years to run in the Olympic 100 meters final and female runner Wang also made her nation proud on Saturday by becoming the first Chinese woman to enter the final round of the women's 800 meters. Both of them were trained by one coach - Randy Huntington, an American.

Huntington has been Su's coach since 2014 and was responsible for the athlete's special training plan. He played a key role in addressing Su's starting stance, breathing and pacing technique. 

The training plan targeted these problems and made a big difference in boosting Su's times.

At Huntington's suggestion, Su changed the position of his feet on the starting blocks and adjusted his starting foot. Such changes in detail allowed Su to maintain the highest speed for the second half of the course.

"He has helped us a lot in training, first of all on the concept of speed and the second on the change of pace," Su said of his coach in an interview.

Marta Gómez Casas, Spain, Swimming   

Behind the success of China's butterfly swimmer Zhang Yufei was Spaniard Marta Gómez Casas, who calls Zhang a "Chinese little sister." 

As a professional sports physiotherapist, she was invited by the national swimming team years ago to help Chinese swimmers avoid injuries as well as to offer professional advice to swimmers on safe and effective training. 

Zhang was one of the swimmers who sought help. She was born with scoliosis that led to acute pains every time she trained. Gómez Casas made a special plan to treat her condition and offer systematic massage therapies by focusing on Zhang's hip bones and waist joints.

On Gómez Casas' Instagram page, she has shared many posts about Zhang, saying how proud she was to see her win two gold medals in one day. 

"I don't have really words to describe how I feel after see you swimming that way. I'm sooooo proud of you and sooo happy."

Hugues Obry, France, Fencing

The Chinese fencing team's French coach Hugues Obry has achieved his aim of helping the team to regain its aura and reach the top of the sport in Tokyo, with Chinese fencer Sun Yiwen winning gold on the second day at the Olympics.

On July 24, 29-year-old Sun edged Ana ­Maria Popescu of Romania in the women's epee ­individual gold medal bout, and claimed a third gold for the country. Obry rushed on to the court and lifted the newly crowned champion on his shoulder, and carried the Chinese national flag to celebrate the win.

Olympic fans were impressed by the rapport between Sun and Obry on the court and his love for China. They nicknamed him "Bald Hugues" to show their appreciation, which was also referred to by Obry himself as a self introduction in a video after the competition. 

"My goal [as their coach] is to rekindle the ­Chinese fencing team," Obry said in an interview.

Obry took over the Chinese fencing team as head coach in September 2016, just after the team ended their campaign in Rio with silver and bronze medals, missing out on gold.

Steven Redgrave, UK, Rowing

The Chinese rowing team shone at the Tokyo Olympic Games, winning bronze and gold in the men's double sculls and women's quadruple sculls respectively and doing it in "spectacular fashion," as described on Tokyo 2020's official website. 

Behind the achievements stands Sir Steve Redgrave, the famous British rower who has coached the Chinese national rowing team since 2018. 

When Redgrave was appointed as "high performance director" for Chinese rowing, he set the goal of Olympic gold medals for the team, targeting both the Tokyo Games and the Paris Games in 2024. 

"The Olympic Games in Tokyo is, of course, an important step in our strategy and China wants to win a gold Olympic medal there," Redgrave was quoted as saying in 2019 by Reuters. 

As well as being responsible for the training and strategic development of the Chinese national rowing team, he also assists the Chinese Rowing Association in developing a system that includes research and youth training. 

"We can't mind other athletes, we can only control ourselves. I believe the Chinese team can go faster in the competition," Redgrave told media.