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Dai Li stared at Guohong Niu. He sensed that Guohong Niu was eager to be stronger.
"So far your training load is pretty high. If I give you extra practice, your body may not be able to bear the stress," Dai Li said worriedly.
"I believe I can do it!" said Guohong Niu firmly.
"Let's have additional training for a few days first, then see how everything goes. You can adjust yourself during this period of time," Dai Li agreed, "It's OK if you can't make it. Additional training doesn't fall under regular training, there's no need to be ashamed if you can't hold on until the end."
Guohong Niu said nothing, but his eyes were shining with stubbornness.
"Well, to be honest, it's not necessary to put yourself under so much pressure. Athletic training is a long, gradual process; you have to improve step by step. Nobody can reach the top in a night. You are already on the national team, they won't eliminate you. Don't worry about that."
"I want to go to the Asian Games!" Guohong Niu replied, "I don't want to be an alternate! I want to compete in formal contests!"
"Then hold on!" Dai Li smiled. He knew that Guohong Niu had made his decision. It had not taken any encouragement on Dai Li's part. Why not push this boy a little by offering him additional training in spare time?
Guohong Niu was anxious to outdo the others. Even if Dai Li refused, he would insist on receiving extra training. Dai Li would rather give him a small lesson than let the boy practice alone unprofessionally.
A few days later, the second phase of the Asian Games Training Camp finished. It was finally time for the national team to decide on the participants for the game. In the meeting room, the national team coaches were discussing the final name list.
"Guohong Niu is a college athlete. He started late, but has been working very hard. Recently he has been receiving extra training. From his performance I can see significant progress." Li Xue paused, then said, "In yesterday's assessment, Guohong Niu's time was 10.28 seconds, which just reaches the B-level standard for the Olympics. Usually an athlete with such a performance would be able to go to the Asian Games, but the number of participants is limited. Therefore, I plan to have him be an alternate in the Asian Games," Li Xue finished his speech, sighing pitifully.
Big competitions like the Asian Games were different than individual events. The latter required whoever registered to be the one competing, while the relay race only required group registrations. The participant group submitted the list of names right before the race began.
Generally speaking, the relay race had alternates. If the main force's schedule was too tight, or if any of the main athletes got injured, alternates would substitute in for the athlete. Sometimes there were alternates who specialized in the relay race. So, as an alternate, Guohong Niu's upcoming task would be to prepare for relay race. With his performance, the other coaches had no disagreements over making Guohong Niu an alternate.
"OK, now let's discuss the 200m sprint!" Li Xue paused again, then said, "For the 200m sprint, Jun Xie and Zitao Wei already occupy two spots; the key problem is deciding who should be the last one. l was planning on choosing either Xiong Chu or Wei Zhang, but you all watched the latest in-team examination. We have a dark horse! Yue Zhao's time was 20.78 seconds.
"I know, 20.78 seconds is not outstanding; Xiong Chu and Wei Zhang can also make that time. Moreover, both of them are already members of the national team, while Yue Zhao is from a local team. But I think Yue Zhao has a lot of potential!"
Li Xue continued, "Yue Zhao is 26-years-old. Normally athletes at 26 don't have much potential left. However, during this last examination, his time was 20.88 seconds. There were only twenty days between the first and second tests, yet he improved by 0.1 seconds. I'm surprised by his progress.
"There are still two months before the Asian Games begin. If Yue Zhao keeps improving like this, when the games begin, his time might be less than 20.70 seconds. Going off previous years, such a time could possibly win a medal."
"Therefore, for the last person for the 200m sprint, I'd like to hear your thoughts." Li Xue ended the conversation, looking at the crowd. The coaches in the room began brainstorming.
It sounds like Coach Xue is planning on giving the last spot to Yue Zhao!
Yue Zhao's coach is Dai Li. Even though he doesn't belong to the national team, he is Li Xue's favorite student. Is Li Xue planning to promote Dai Li?
It's not common to see a basic-level athlete take a national team athlete's spot! It might be weird to send Yue Zhao for the game.
Everyone present had different ideas. Finally, someone said, "Coach Xue, Yue Zhao's current time may be 20.78 seconds, but after two months there's no telling whether he will be able to run in under 20.70 seconds or not. Since his performance is not guaranteed, I don't think it would be a good idea to send him for the competition."
Li Xue nodded silently, then turned to the others.
"Coach Xue, I think Yue Zhao can be the one. For the 200m sprint, if we send either Xiong Chu or Wei Zhang, neither of them can realistically win a medal. Why not bet on him? If he indeed runs under 20.70 seconds, he might be able to get a medal."
Li Xue nodded again, then looked at the other coaches. Some coaches agreed the idea, while others were against it. They each came up with various reasons. The fierce discussion brought forth no conclusion. At last, Li Xue turned to the chief coach, Shuren Zhao. He should be the one to make the final decision.
Shuren Zhao took it as his obligation. He cleared throat with a cough, then said, "This is all good advice. But there are two weeks before the registration deadline, so my suggestion is that we don't need to hurry; why not take time to observe Yue Zhao for a while, instead of making a hasty decision right now? What do you think, Coach Xue?"
"Right, we still have two weeks. We'd better make further observations." Although Li Xue said so, he didn't think in the same way. He preferred to have everything set as soon as possible, so he could arrange upcoming training plans. But Shuren Zhao was the chief coach. As the second leader, Li Xue dared not to disagree.
"But it's not a good idea to put this off. What if in two weeks we still can't come to a group decision. We will have wasted too much time." Li Xue turned to Shuren Zhao and said, "I have an idea—how about we set a qualifying standard for Yue Zhao?"
"Good idea." Shuren Zhao gently knocked on the table to call everyone's attention. Then he said, "During this period of time, Yue Zhao is indeed improving rapidly. But it's unsure whether his improvement is temporary or will prove to be long-lasting. Li Xue just reminded me that we can set a qualifying standard for him. Before the registration deadline for the Asian Games, if he can reach our standard, he will get his opportunity! In athletics, the one with the better performance has the power. Although Yue Zhao is from a local team, as long as he has an outstanding performance, the others will be convinced."
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