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A dark blur travelled through the air. The shot made landed on the ground.
"16 meters! I made it past 16 meters!" Qin began to celebrate with his hands in the air. Although he was the last among the five to achieve 16 meters, he was thrilled regardless.
The qualification stand for a national first-class athletes in shot put was 16.20 meters. This put Qin very close to the mark. He believed that at his current rate of progress, he could reach the standard very soon.
Jiankang Chen made the quickest progress among the five. At his best, he could already throw beyond 16.20 meters, the qualification stand for national first-class athletes.
Throwing a 16-pound shot ball over 16 meters was good enough to participate in national-level field events. However, this was merely the qualifying distance. In events such as the National Track and Field Championship, 16 meters would be at the bottom of the ranking.
If the age of the athlete were taken into consideration, 16 meters would have be extremely meaningful. In fact, considering the average physical condition of Asians, reaching the national first-class athlete standard before the age of 18 would be a remarkable achievement in any sport.
Compared to world top-level athletes such as Feixiang Lin and Feifei Yu, C-level talent could barely be considered talent at all. But not every athlete was able to be a world champion. C-level talent, however, was much better than the average person, which made for an excellent athlete.
Dai Li was satisfied enough being able to cultivate excellent athletes. Being an excellent professional in any profession was already a success. Not every software developer could become Bill Gates, just as not every e-commerce merchant could be as rich as Jack Ma. Likewise, not every internet enterprise could be as successful as Tencent, nor could every online writer have as many fans as Tang Jia San Shao.
However, nobody should disregard the achievements of those who are excellent, nor deny their success. Athletes should not be given up on just because their talent was not enough to make them champions, nor consider them to be unworthy of cultivation.
Time flew by. Dai Li had spent four months with the provincial youth team. As June approached, the team prepared to embark on the busiest time of year— the arrival of new young athletes.
June was also the season of graduation. The athletes with were finishing their nine-year compulsory education. Most of them would enter city youth teams, sports schools, or became sports talent students in high schools. Those entering the provincial youth team were the best ones among them.
All the coaches of the youth track and field team were gathering in the conference room. Bin Lu, the head coach, was sitting in the center with a grave look on his face.
Bin Lu said, "The reason I have gathered everyone here is to make an announcement. I was just notified by the provincial sport bureau that at the beginning of July, the track and field team at the Nantan Middle School is visiting us for an exchange. I'm sure that everybody has heard of the famous Nantan Middle School of Nanwan?" All the coaches nodded in acknowledgement, including Dai Li.
When talking about the Nantan Middle School, everybody working in the sports business knew about it. It was an ordinary public high school in Nanwan, except the word "ordinary" referred to the education. Outside of that, the Nantan Middle School was far from "ordinary."
All students who attended the Nantan Middle School were sports talent students, meaning that the school was running an amateur sports school business under the name of an ordinary high school. The only difference separating it from a real sports school was that the Nantan Middle School was putting more emphasis on the academic lessons. The graduates there were qualified to enter universities, a perk not available in technical secondary schools like the sports schools.
Beginning on the very first day, apart from completing the regular high school courses, all students in the Nantan Middle School were required to undergo physical training. By the third year, the students took the college entrance exam as high-level athletes, special exam takers, or sports talent students, then entered universities as sports students.
The education in the Nantan Middle School was delivered in an uncommon way. However, because the minimum acceptance score in college was much lower for sports talent students, the percentage of students entering college from Nantan was very high. Their students had been training for sports for three years. They would surely have better results on sports talent exams than the students taking up sports in their last year. Not only that, but they had not given up their academic classes. Almost all graduates of Nantan could be admitted to universities.
The high college acceptance rate also gave Nantan a good reputation. This drew in students from all over the country. Parents sent their teenagers to Nantan if their children did not enjoy studying but aspired to make it into college. Choosing from students from all over the country, Nantan had the option of selecting only the best of the best, which was beneficial for the school. This formed a virtuous cycle. As a result, the Nantan Middle School was well known throughout the country, especially among sports professionals. Everyone had heard about this school.
Head coach Bin Lu continued, "The Nantan Middle School is not a friendly visitor. The summer before last, they visited the youth track and field team in the Minnan province. Last summer, they paid a visit to the youth team of the Jiandong province. I didn't expect it to be our turn this year."
The coaches in the conference room had grave looks on their faces, as if they were facing a great enemy. Dai Li also felt the change of atmosphere in the conference room. As a newcomer with little insider knowledge, he gently asked the coach next to him, "Mr. Zhang, isn't it just an athletic team coming for a visit? We just need to greet them as any other team. Why is everybody so nervous?"
Mr. Zhang leaned over and whispered, "The Nantan Middle School always brings their young athletes for the exchange visits, and propose a friendly match. This is what really matters. Last year and the year before last, the Nantan team played friendly matches with the Jiangdong and Minnan provinces respectively. Guess what? Nantan had dominating victories in both matches!"
"Really? It is just a high school. How come their athletes are better than those on the youth teams?" Dai Li found it incredible. A provincial youth team was where the top athletes from the entire province gathered. How could they not compete with a high school?
Mr. Zhang explained, "Nantan is a strong team. They have students from all over the country, and there are surely some excellent athletes. But it's still impossible to defeat the provincial youth team. It's all about the timing. Nantan visits each year during the transition period of the provincial youth teams, when the new athletes are just arriving and have not had enough training yet. Meanwhile, for the older athletes, the good ones have already been taken by the adult teams, while the bad ones are about to quit. How can we compete with Nantan like this?"
"How can they do that, paying a visit when we are short of people? This is a sneak attack, not an elegant victory, even if they do win," Dai Li complained.
"Yes, it is a sneak attack. But Nantan doesn't care about elegant victories. Instead, they promote themselves with their victory. An ordinary high school from a prefecture-level city defeating the provincial youth team. It is big news!" Mr. Zhang said with a slight hint of sarcasm.
"Why are they doing this? They are offending others. What do they have to gain?" Dai Li asked.
"It helps them attract better students during the admission season," Mr. Zhang continued. "A high school does not recruit the same way our athletic team does. Our provincial youth team has a pool of candidates from the city youth teams and sports schools. Even if we sit around and do nothing, each city will send the best candidates to our doorstep. But a regular high school has to rely on itself to recruit the best students. Most students will apply for the schools with the best reputation."
"I get it. After defeating the provincial youth team, the Nantan Middle School will use this victory as their admission advertisement to draw in the excellent candidates. They may get good students, but we will become their stepping stone!" After saying this, Dai Li looked distraught.
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