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UNIVERSIADE: Taiwanese find pride, unity in celebrating sports

2017/08/30 19:48:35

By Lee Hsin-Yin, CNA staff reporter

The motto of the 2017 Summer Universiade in Taipei may be "For You, For Youth," but the legacy of the games for the Taiwanese public is something even bigger -- everyone in Taiwan remembering themselves being young and proud together.

During the Aug. 19-30 sporting event, Taiwan snagged a record-breaking 26 golds, 34 silvers and 30 bronzes, far surpassing the estimate of 12 golds from Taiwan's Sports Administration.

Many local athletes attributed their outstanding performances to the heartfelt support of the public, adding that it was the sense of "defending home court" that brought out the best in them.

Taiwanese weightlifter Kuo Hsing-chun (郭婞淳), who defeated the Olympic champion and lifted 142 kg to break a 10-year-old world record for clean & jerk in the women's weightlifting 58kg weight class on Aug. 21, described exactly that experience.

While many of the athletes are no strangers to competing overseas, Kuo said the greatest advantage competing at home, besides not having to adapt to different environment and diets, is the luxury of being surrounded by local people constantly cheering in a familiar language.


Taiwanese weightlifter Kuo Hsing-chun

"The stadium was full of people cheering so loud and rooting so hard for us," Kuo said. "That fills you with power out there."

The passion towards the games not only inspired the athletes but also spectators, many of whom have never bought tickets for a sports event before.

Kang Mei-li (康美莉), who wore a sticker of the Republic of China's (Taiwan) national flag on her left cheek to root for badminton player Tai Tzu-ying (戴資穎) on Aug. 29, was one of them.

"I don't do much sport myself, but I wanted to come out and support our athletes especially when it is such a rare occasion for Taiwan to hold a big event like this," said the 50-year-old, who traveled all the way from Taipei to Hsinchu for a basketball game between Taiwan and Ukraine on Aug. 28.

"It was the only way to get into a game. Most tickets to events in Taipei were sold out," said Kang, who showed her support for Tai outside the venue for the final of the women's singles, where Tai took the 24th gold medal for Taiwan.

According to the organizers, about 700,000 tickets, or 83 percent, were sold as of Aug. 28, compared with 52 percent during the 2015 Gwangju Universiade in South Korea.

The most popular event was the athletics held in the latter half of the Universiade, fueled by Taiwanese runner Yang Chun-han's (楊俊瀚) epic win in the men's 100-meter on Aug. 24, clocking 10.22 seconds.

For Taiwan the climax of the track & field fell on Aug. 26, when Cheng Chao-tsun (鄭兆村) won the gold medal in the men's javelin with a new Asian record of 91.36 meters.


Taiwanese athlete Cheng Chao-tsun

"It was a surprise that Taiwan performed so well in athletics. We also did well in tennis, basketball and weightlifting," said Su Li-chiung (蘇麗瓊), CEO of the the Taipei Universiade organizing committee.

In addition to the athletes' heroic performances that made Taiwanese proud, some think the Universiade itself offered an opportunity for people to come together.

Wu Yi-hsuan (吳奕璇), a university volunteer, said she felt a sense of belonging throughout the games.

"I felt very moved to see so many people cheering for the same goal -- for our athletes to win. I felt that we are united," she said, adding that she has received much praise for the Universiade from global media representatives.

However, Wu also said it was a pity protesters blocked Universiade athletes from entering the venue during the opening ceremony.

A protest targeting President Tsai Ing-wen's (蔡英文) pension reform policy ended up blocking participants from entering Taipei Stadium, where she was scheduled to welcome young athletes from around the world.

That incident drew widespread condemnation and raised doubts as to whether the games could be carried out smoothly.

The Universiade faced other unfortunate incidents, including staff members who fell ill to diarrhea after eating lunchboxes from a restaurant in Taipei, and a male athlete from the Philippines being diagnosed with dengue fever.

However, the games left viewers, athletes and national delegations with a positive impression of Taiwan.

Jaqueline Moreno, who visited the Universiade at the invitation of Rotary International District 3490 in Taiwan, said she felt the country did a good job.


Moreno and her friends posing in front of the Taipei Arena

"It shows the world you have resources to maintain an international event like this," said the Mexican, adding that she has been impressed with public facilities and services such as free wifi connections and the Taipei metro system.

The Taipei Universiade, the largest international sports event ever hosted in Taiwan, drew 7,376 athletes from 134 countries, who competed in 271 events in 21 sports for 1,978 medals.

Germany's Andreas Hofmann, runner-up in the men's javelin, said things were very organized.

"It was very exciting, a very nice experience to be here," he said.

And perhaps Su's comments summarize the experience best of all.

"I believe that the Taipei Universiade has been more than an ordinary event or a sports event. It offers (an opportunity) for people to establish ongoing relationships," Su said.

"I hope this experience will be a memory that is shared by all Taiwanese," she said.

Enditem/AW