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Friday, October 1, 2021

life can be cruel to some !!


Is life harsh and cruel on some ? – for believers, it could be karma, destiny !   This post is about a gymnast   making a living on the streets, doing handstands and singing for a live online audience in a car park in his home city of Baoding, Hebei province.   Zhang appeared destined for the Olympics after he won two gold medals at the 2001 Universiade. But a year later a tendon injury brought his promising career to an end.   With little education, he took jobs as a waiter and a care worker, but injuries hampered his ability to work and he turned to theft, spending nearly five years in jail before being released in April 2011.

This left-arm pacer, whom I have seen bowl at Marina, took more than 200 wickets in Ranji (playing for Delhi) ended up more of a Quiz Q – the traveller – part of the World Cup winning Kapil Devils of 1983 – Sunil Valson, who never played for India.  Srinivasan Venkatraghavan got raw deal (humiliation of getting dropped after being Captain in the test against WI at Kotla and again the news of his getting dropped being announced as he was returning from England in 1979); Dilip Doshi debuted at 32; spinners like Padmakar Shivalkar, Rajinder Hans, Rajinder Goel never played for the Nation.  Karun Nair scored a sparkling triple ton against England at Chepauk in 2o16 but played only 3 subsequently.  A little known player debuted against Zimbabwe in 2016 – India won by 10 wickets, KL Rahul opening scored unbeaten 63 while this man made a maiden 50 (55*) – debuted in his thirties, becoming the first Indian player in 16 years to be so ! – scored heavily including   a match-winning 127 in Rest of India's epic chase of 480 in the Irani Cup – Faiz Fazal – getting no chance thereafter !!!  

Gymnastics at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo was held in three categories: artistic gymnastics, rhythmic gymnastics and trampolining.  Gymnastics is a sport that includes physical exercises requiring balance, strength, flexibility, agility, coordination, and endurance. The movements involved in gymnastics contribute to the development of the arms, legs, shoulders, back, chest, and abdominal muscle groups. Gymnastics evolved from exercises used by the ancient Greeks that included skills for mounting and dismounting a horse, and from circus performance skills. Artistic gymnastics is a discipline of gymnastics in which athletes perform short routines on different apparatuses. The sport is governed by the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG), which designs the Code of Points and regulates all aspects of elite international competition.  

China’s five-woman team of Fan Yilin, Mao Yi, Shang Chunsong, Tan Jiaxin and Wang Yan lost the silver by a fraction to Russia in the team final of the artistic gymnastics as the US team led by the phenomenon Simone Biles won gold by the largest margin since 1960.  BUT they stirred up some controversy too .. ..  too many were  Googling ‘How old are China’s women’s gymnastics team’.  Gymnasts must turn 16 during an Olympic year to be eligible to compete according to FIG rules.  .. .. there were comments that some or many of them were not !!

Zhang Shangwu   is a former artistic gymnast and member of the China national gymnastics team. He gained much attention   notoriety in the 2010s after it was discovered that his life had turned to stealing and begging on the streets.

In 1988, five-year-old Zhang Shangwu entered the amateur sports school in Baoding, Hebei, after his family was convinced that sports would open opportunities for him and at  12, he was selected to become a member of the national gymnastics team.  Zhang made his international debut at the 2001 Summer Universiade in Beijing, where he was able to win gold medals in rings and in the team event.  Zhang though was less than 18 years old at the time, not a college student, and thus in order to participate in the competition, the leadership let him pretend to be a freshman at Beijing Sports University.

As he was turning big, 2002 gave a shock as Zhang ruptured his Achilles tendon in both legs during training.  He was forced by his coach to continue practicing, but was ultimately taken off the team for the 2004 Summer Olympics.  In June 2005 at the age of 21, he voluntarily retired from competition after receiving compensation and old-age insurance payments totaling RMB 38,000.

Life was cruel to him as he retired and returned to his hometown.  He did odd jobs including becoming a  waiter but was often ridiculed by the staff because of his height. Caught on the wrong foot,  he resorted to stealing, and in early 2007, he was arrested by Tianjin police for theft and sentenced to two months in prison.  After being released, Zhang moved to Beijing to wander the streets and internet cafés.  He was nabbed stealing laptops, mobile phones, and cash from an athlete's apartment at the Beijing Sports University  and was entenced to prison for three years and ten months.

After being released from prison in May 2011, he stayed in Beijing to beg. He would perform handstands for commuters and display photos and medals from his competitive years,  and ended up selling one of his Universiade gold medals for 150 RMB.  After his plight was highlighted by the media,   people were quick to reach out for help as well as criticize the sports system in China.   Zhang was officially hired as "Deputy Minister of Public Welfare of Love" and "Ambassador Spokesperson of Public Interest Image" of Jiangsu Huangpu Renewable Resources Utilization Co., Ltd., with a monthly salary of more than 11,000 RMB in addition to a 80,000 RMB bailout- but he could not continue !!  Zhang moved to Shanghai in 2019 and was later jailed for a third time for pick-pocketing.

Out of prison in Mar 2020, when pandemic hit the globe,  he announced on social media the creation of a charity, the "Bird's Nest Project", which aimed to donate 20,000 masks to health workers in their fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.  With little success from the charity, he returned to perform on the streets and continues to do so today !!

Sad tale of man who once could have aimed for the stars and sky but is no struggling for daily bread.

With regards – S. Sampathkumar
30th Sept 2021.

1 comment:

  1. Usually I never comment on blogs but your article is so convincing that I never stop myself to say something about it. You’re doing a great job Man,Keep it up. Rhythmic Gymnastics classes near me.