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For Gao Min, life is more fun after Games 2007-05-21 09:58:35
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Gao Min's File photo.(Xinhua Photo)

Gao Min's File photo.(Xinhua Photo)

    BEIJING, May 21 -- Since she won her first gold medal at the World Swimming Championships as a teenage schoolgirl, diving has dominated Gao Min's life. Now the double Olympic gold medalist and a cheerleader for the Beijing Games says family and fun come first.

    "What I am doing now is just for fun. Diving is no longer my whole life and my family takes priority," Gao told China Daily.

    "I love to show my strong support for the Beijing Games and I also learn a lot from these new experiences."

    The 36-year-old "Diving Queen" now spends her time sharing stories on her blog, hosting Olympic TV programs, attending various Olympic-themed activities and even participating in an ongoing contest to find designs for the Chinese medalists at the Beijing Games.

    Gao, who won Olympic gold at the 3-meter springboard in both 1988 and 1992, also finds time to play badminton with her celebrity friends and serve as the vice-president of a local soccer club where her two sons play.

    "I don't want to force them to follow in my footsteps and become professional players," she said. "I told my sons that sport is like a force that can help you get through all of the difficulties in your life. It doesn't matter whether you win or lose, just give it your best shot."

    Born in Zigong, Sichuan Province, Gao is regarded as one of the greatest female springboard divers in the history of the sport. Since winning her first major international title at the age of 16 in 1986, she remained unbeaten in international competitions over the next seven years.

    She remains the only female diver to surpass the 600-point mark on the springboard, and her record of 635 remains beyond the reach of most of today's international crop.

    She notched 580.23 en route to winning China's first Olympic gold on the springboard at the 1988 Seoul Olympics, and repeated the feat in 1992 at Barcelona. In between, she won three world championships, captured double gold at the 1990 Beijing Asian Games, and was voted one of the nation's top 40 sports stars since the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

    Gao was chosen as the World Best Diver of the Year by US magazine Swimming World from 1987 to 1989 and the Woman's World Springboard Diver of the Year for a record seven consecutive years from 1986 to 1992. In 2003 she was inducted to the Women's Sports Hall Of Fame.

    But Gao retired soon after the 1992 Barcelona Games, when a combination of hard training, injuries and pressure saw four doctors tending to her for the two-week duration. When she finally stepped up to accept her gold medal, she couldn't help crying.

    "I was so tired and I had lived under such intense pressure for such a long time that I just wanted to live a simple life," she recalled.

    She wrote down her feelings at the time on her blog.

    "I was so tired and wanted to have a rest. I didn't want to travel around the world and win the competitions. At midnight, I always felt scared."

    In 1995, she waved farewell to her glorious career in China and flew to the US in pursuit of a new life.

    Two years later, she went to Canada, where she coached the Edmonton Kinsmen Diving Club until she returned to China in 2005. In Edmonton, Alberta, Gao produced many national team divers and helped further the development of the sport in Canada.

    "I really enjoyed the life in Canada," she said. "The work in the club was quite easy for me and in my spare time I was a happy housewife."

    But the world has not forgotten Gao's accomplishments.

    When New York City was bidding to host the 2012 Summer Olympics, Gao was invited as a special representative from Asia. She was one of only five athletes from around the world to be honored when the city celebrated its 100th anniversary on New Year's Eve in Times Square.

    "This is such good news, such a wonderful honor," Gao said when she received the invitation. "I am very honored to take part in this ceremony and to represent China and Asia. It is especially meaningful for me because of Beijing hosting the 2008 Summer Olympics."

    (Source: China Daily)

Editor: Gao Ying
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