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During the training breaks, the athletes would get together to drink water and chat. Except Sijie Yang would sit beside them quietly. With a large glass of water in hand, Sijie Yang did not talk to anyone. He did not even make eye contact with the rest of the athletes.
He is truly introverted! He seldom talks to his teammates. Dai Li watched him silently.
Being introverted was not a big issue for athletes. They were not correspondents or hosts; they did not need outgoing personalities to assist their careers. The most important thing for them was improving their performance.
However, it seemed like Sijie Yang was too introverted. He did not even speak to his own teammates.
Dai Li continued observing, and found that the rest of the athletes did not speak to Sijie Yang, either. It seemed as if they had got used to the situation by just ignoring the Sijie Yang's existence altogether.
When the training was over, the athletes left in groups of three and four. Sijie Yang was still a "lone ranger." He walked behind the rest of the athletes, not communicating with them at all.
Does he have autism? Dai Li murmured to himself.
Although sprinting was an individual sporting event and did not require cooperation between teammates, the track and field athletes gathered on different teams according to the current system requirements of China. The training team of the highest level should be the national team, followed by provincial teams, city-level teams, and school teams. Training teams of different levels were small groups. The athletes had to stay in their groups before their retirement.
However, Sijie Yang was like a weirdo who had left his group. He never spoke to others, and vice versa.
Dai Li remembered that the most frequent word Sijie Yang had used was "Oh." He had replied to everything Dai Li had said with "Oh." Suddenly, the word "isolation" popped into Dai Li's brain, which he thought was the most accurate word to describe Sijie Yang.
Dai Li was now curious about Sijie Yang's experience, and what had led him to where he was now.
On the training ground.
"Xiaotian Xin, well done; but try to make your center of gravity more stabilized. Have you noticed that the landing time of your supporting leg is a bit uneven? This is the result of an unstable center of gravity. Don't try to push off by exerting force intentionally; you should do it naturally, and treat each stride as a whole, and in turn treat the complete running process as a whole…"
Along with Dai Li's voluble instruction, Xiaotian Xin kept nodding his head, taking note of all Dai Li's instructions. Dai Li was always able to point out Xiaotian Xin's deficiencies right away. Xiaotian Xin had long gotten used to his instruction, so his admiration for Dai Li only increased.
After finishing technique instruction, Dai Li changed the topic suddenly and asked, "It seems like you aren't fond of Sijie Yang. I have never seen communication between you and him. Have you ever had any conflict with him?"
"You mean him?" Xiaotian Xin snorted grimly, "Sijie Yang was admitted to the sprinting team through the 'backdoor.' When he arrived, we thought his performance was only so-so; we were wondering how such a lousy guy could make it on our team. Later, we heard that his father was very accomplished, and even knew a lot of big shots. The university admitted him only because of his father's relationships."
Backdoor? Dai Li was quite amazed. He thought an athlete with A-level ability could get on the national team easily. Why would he need connections to help him be admitted to the Tsinghua University sprinting team? However, thinking about Sijie Yang's low ability, Dai Li began to believe what Xiaotian Xin had said.
"Even if Sijie Yang came here through the 'backdoor,' you shouldn't isolate him, right? I have seldom seen you communicate with him," Dai Li continued.
"It's not that we don't talk to him, it's that he doesn't want to talk with us," Xiaotian Xin shook his head. "When he arrived, we wanted to communicate with him. But he always ignored our greetings and didn't want to answer our questions. Eventually we just left him alone. Being a 'backdoor' user, he was just too distant. I even got the feeling that he was in a different world than us."
Xiaotian Xin's last sentence really resonated with Dai Li, who also got the feeling that Sijie Yang was an outsider. Although Sijie Yang could finish all the training, he was like a square peg in a round hole. Dai Li even got the feeling that the person on the training ground was not Sijie Yang, but someone else in his place.
Dai Li had never had a coaching experience with an athlete like Sijie Yang, who had no passion and was calm as water. He could finish all the training, but it always seemed like he did not care about it one way or another.
Dai Li felt he should have a serious conversation with Sijie Yang.
After finishing a day's training, the athletes went to leave the training ground. However, Dai Li stopped Sijie Yang.
"Sijie Yang, please wait a moment." Dai Li called Sijie Yang over to him.
"Sijie Yang, how had your recent training been?" Dai Li asked.
With his head lowered, Sijie Yang didn't reply, continuing to show his introverted attitude.
Dai Li continued, "I feel your training attitude is quite problematic."
"I have finished all training tasks you assigned!" Sijie Yang said immediately.
"Yes, you finished the tasks; but you only finished them, nothing more. What is the purpose of our training? We train so we can improve your performance, not to 'finish' the task." Dai Li paused, then continued, "You are really gifted, and your current performance does not match up with your ability."
Sijie Yang lowered his head and remained silent again.
"I think there is something wrong with your training attitude. Do you think training is something you don't need? Or do you just not like the training?" Dai Li continued asking.
Sijie Yang still had his head lowered, remaining silent.
"Sijie Yang, I don't want to scold you; I just want to communicate with you. Now that I have expressed what I'm feeling, I'm waiting for your opinion," Dai Li finished. He stared at Sijie Yang.
Sijie Yang was trying to avoid eye contact with Dai Li. He wanted to escape.
"Problems cannot be solved by keeping silent. Language is the basic communication tool used by mankind. You should tell me first so I can know what's going on in your head." Dai Li paused, then continued in a sincere tone, "I don't know what worries you, but if you tell me you're thinking, maybe I can understand what's going on."
Finally, after building up the courage for several seconds, Sijie Yang looked up and said, "Coach, I hate sprinting, and I don't want to be an athlete!"
A flash of amazement appeared in Dai Li's eyes. He had never expected an answer like that.
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