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Silence filled the meeting room. Dai Li's voice was a shocking thunderclap that broke the silence of the night, suddenly attracting everyone's attention.
It's Dai Li! The other coaches in the meeting room all turned to Dai Li.
They looked at Dai Li with different expressions in their eyes. Some admired Dai Li's courage to volunteer, some thought he was reckless, and some were delighting in his upcoming misfortune.
"Dai Li, are you sure you want to lead the relay team? I want to make this clear, there's only one day left for you to coach them." Li Xue paused then continued, "Moreover, even though you still have one day, you can't overtrain the athletes. The relay final starts tomorrow night, and your trainees must save as much strength as possible for the race. Therefore, your training load can't be too much. You have to think carefully."
Dai Li nodded. "Roger that, coach. I have confidence!"
Li Xue thought for a few seconds. "This is a matter of great importance. In the national team, you are the newest coach. Confidence is not good enough to help you deal with this challenge. You have to give us something to convince us. I won't give you the team simply from your words. How about sharing your ideas first, what's your training plan? We can discuss it."
Dai Li immediately replied, "Guohong Niu has a nice reaction speed, plus as an alternate, he has already been practicing for the relay race, so I plan to make him the first leg. Sijie Yang specialized in the 100m sprint, he has good speed and explosive force, so it should be no problem for him to be the second leg. Yue Zhao has outstanding curve techniques and has been performing steadily, so I'll put him as the third leg. Since these three participants have received special training for relays, they won't need much time to practice their baton exchanges tomorrow.
"The most vital role is Haiquan Fang. He's not a sprinter, so he can only fit the fourth leg, and he'll need special training on the baton exchange." Dai Li paused, then said, "Actually, he only needs to practice receiving the baton, so it should be okay for him to practice just before the race."
Li Xue nodded, agreeing with Dai Li.
Haiquan Fang was not a professional sprinter, and he didn't have any curve techniques, so he was not capable of being the first or third leg, only able to be the second or last one.
Usually, the fourth leg was the fastest person on the team, so Sijie Yang should be the fourth. However, the fourth runner only needed to receive the baton without delivering it to someone else. On the contrary, the second runner had to both receive the baton and give it to the next person, which meant that being the second runner needed more technique for passing the baton.
Passing was more challenging than receiving the baton, so it would be impossible for Haiquan Fang to fully master both techniques. Hence, by putting Haiquan Fang in the fourth leg, he only needed to grasp the skill of receiving baton, which was easier to learn.
To be honest, What Dai Li had said was plain truth, any coach understood, let alone the national team coaches in this meeting room! Anyone else present would adopt Dai Li's arrangement. The fact that nobody else had said so was due to a simple fact: they were all afraid of receiving this steaming hot potato.
Li Xue thought for a few seconds, then said, "Well, we all know the truth, but if you talk the talk, can you walk the walk? Although you've been studying the national team for a while, every coach here is more experienced than you. Why are you confident about this? What advantages do you have?"
Li Xue was not belittling Dai Li, he made that clear. He was indicating that even Dai Li the newbie had dared to bear this hardshi, while the seniors shrunk back at a critical moment, wasn't that pathetic!
Hearing this, some coaches lowered their heads with shame.
However, Dai Li replied, "Haiquan Fang was under my coaching when he was on the Hanbei Provincial Youth Team. We're familiar with each other, so if I train him, we could save time on introductions, and leave more time for formal training. We could have a faster training speed. That's my advantage."
"Good. We do need a high training speed." Li Xue glanced at Dai Li with encouragement, then turned to the crowd. "I agree to let Dai Li try, what do you guys think? If any of you feel that Dai Li is too young to do the job, feel free to share your thoughts! We can have further discussions!"
No one was against him at this moment. If anybody was stupid enough to disagree, once Li Xue said, "if you think you can, then you do it," that guy would have to take Dai Li's place and shoulder the responsibility. Now that Dai Li had volunteered to stand out, the others were exceedingly welcome.
Early the next morning, the four participants began to practice for the relay race.
In fact, the training was mainly about practicing the cooperation of the baton exchange. The participants were all good at sprinting, so there was no need to waste time on enhancing explosive force or speed.
When exchanging the baton, there was an exchanging zone, which was 20 meters long. The athletes were only allowed to exchange the baton within this area. Once anyone stepped out of the zone, it was illegal and would be disqualified.
The first leg would make a stationary start, the second leg runners would have a handoff, during which the second leg athlete ran up first, while waiting for the person behind him to catch up. The baton exchange was completed while running.
During the exchange process, the one at the back was in charge, and the athlete in front had to listen to the commander's order.
Normally, when the giver was approaching the receiver, he would shout "stretch," the person at front would stretch out his hand, and his eyes would remain looking forward.
The person in the back gave the baton to the front person, at the same time he shouted, "Hold." Upon receiving the command, the athlete in front would grip the baton tight and withdraw his arm, running at full speed.
Of course, there were some other orders used in place of "stretch" and "hold." Sometimes if teammates cooperated well, they only needed to give a grunt, and the front person would receive the order.
The most commonly made mistake was to drop the baton. If the receiver withdrew their arm too early, or the giver didn't pass the baton on time, it would lead to dropping the baton.
The whole process looked complicated, but it actually took less than one second for the athletes to complete. Teams who were good at relays were even capable to save about 0.2 seconds during the handoff.
At noon, several coaches who had completed their tasks walked out of the cafeteria, and when they passed by the temporary training field, they happened to see Dai Li and his four trainees.
"Half a day has passed. I wonder how Li is doing over there."
"They look good! But one day is too short for them to prepare, I can only pray for them and wish they're lucky enough to win a medal. It would be great to bring a medal back."
"Li once told me that the long jump champion Haiquan Fang used to be his student on the youth team. Then Li was a long jump coach? I thought he had been a sprint coach this whole time!"
"You know, a provincial youth team doesn't expect to have many coaches, and an able man is always busy! But you do remind me, Sijie Yang and Guohong Niu, they used to be Dai Li's students at Tsinghua University!"
"Guohong Niu and Yue Zhao have been training under Dai Li since the Asian Games training camp. Especially Yue Zhao, I heard that he was recommended by Dai Li to join the training camp. Days ago, in the second phase of the training camp, Dai Li stayed with Yue Zhao until ten o'clock every night to help him practice, you guys all knew that, didn't you?"
"God helps those who help themselves. Yue Zhao's hard work was not in vain, he's a champion at the Asian Games!"
"Yue Zhao, Sijie Yang, Guohong Niu, and Haiquan Fang, in this case, all four athletes in the relay race are Dai Li's students! Well, well, Li is pretty young, but his students are everywhere!"
"Haha, our national relay team is 'Li's army!'"
This coach carelessly joked about "Li's army," but he didn't expect that years later, "Li's army" would dominate the sports world!
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