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纽约时报:一个国家的跨栏之痛  

2008-08-19 12:30:37|  分类: 默认分类 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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纽约时报在今天早上的北京奥运栏目上几乎同时发表了3篇文章来报道刘翔的因伤退出,之所以选择这一篇是因为它充满了人情味。

他说,刘翔迷们交错着从体育场(鸟巢)里走出来,好像是刚刚目击了一场车祸的那么震惊。

而刘翔对中国人的意义就仿佛是达纳尔于网球,科比于篮球,小罗纳尔多于足球,恩德雷巴于马拉松......但是13亿人口把希望和喜爱都寄托在一个明星身上很冒险。

一个到中国的访客想拥抱那些震惊中的刘翔迷们,并对他们说:

别伤心,你们的运动员们高踞奥运会金牌榜的榜首把其他人抛得很远。你们的年轻人是奥运会有史以来最甜美,最有备而来的志愿者。你们的政府组织了一场非常有效率的奥运会。

别伤心。新的饭店舒适惬意。新的地铁干线如此辉煌。你们的孩子们才华横溢。公路上交通顺畅,空气不像我们担心的那样糟糕。姚明(和队友)已经晋级下一轮比赛(已修改-JX)。中国的金牌总数会继续增长。真的别伤心。

 

A Country Feels a Hurdler’s Pain

National mourning began as Liu Xiang rubbed his right leg, signaling the source of his pain, telling 1.3 billion Chinese citizens that he would not be crossing even one hurdle this day.

The sadness radiated outward to fans and officials and journalists, who immediately wept at the downfall of their national hero. All over China, people felt the collective sting of failure, concentrated in one athlete, which is always a risky business.

The spectators wanted no more of the morning heats Monday at the National Stadium. They staggered out of the stadium as if in shock after witnessing a car crash.

Liu’s body had failed, which, in the eyes of many Chinese people, meant they had failed, too.

A visitor to China wanted to hug the horrified fans and say:

It’s all right. Your athletes are leading the Olympics in gold medals by a huge margin. Your young people are the sweetest, most prepared volunteers any Olympics has ever seen. Your government has organized an efficient Olympic Games.

Such words would not have given solace to fans like the 27-year-old man who gave his family name as Chu: “This is such a disgrace for China,” he said, adding, “He must have been through a lot of pressure from the press. Both the media and Liu Xiang himself should take the responsibility.”

Feng Gang, 33, who came with four friends from the city of Chongqing to see Liu compete, called the injury “a pity,” but added: “In the end, it really matters only to himself. We are just the audience. I am sure he is the one that regrets this the most, not anyone else. We feel disappointed, of course, but we still like him as a person.”

It is always dangerous to put faith in one person, be it dictator or elected official, singer or actor. Everybody is flawed, particularly athletes, whose Achilles’ tendons or hamstrings can go at any time.

China had personified its hopes for the 2008 Summer Games in Liu, a 25-year-old hurdler, who by definition was fragile. All athletes are fragile. Witness the way Yao Ming hobbled off the court while playing for the faraway Houston Rockets last winter. Witness the way Mickey Mantle, the great Yankees hitter, blew a hamstring running to first base one night in the early ’60s — like a deer being shot in midstride, somebody wrote.

But Liu is different. He is even more central to the Chinese persona than Yao, who at 7 feet 6 inches is beyond imagination. Liu was the outer possibility of the Chinese psyche, the chance that a 6-2 hurdler could compete with athletes from around the world.

That prospect intrigued Liu. Chinese athletes are trained to keep a low profile and not become grandiose, but Liu once speculated on the impact of his 110-meter hurdles world record of 12.91 seconds in the Athens Games in 2004.

“It is kind of a miracle,” Liu said. “It is unbelievable — a Chinese, an Asian, has won this event. It is a proud moment not only for China but for Asia and all people who share the same yellow skin color.”

Please note these are not the ravings of a Western journalist. These are the words of Liu — reasonable enough, since he had just become the first Chinese male ever to win a gold medal in Olympic track and field.

“Please pay attention to Chinese track and field,” he said. “I think we Chinese can unleash a yellow tornado on the world.”

This was not some foolish boast of racial superiority, just an assertion of standing tall against the world. Liu was suggesting that a Chinese man could reach the level of Rafael Nadal of tennis or Kobe Bryant of basketball or Ronaldinho of soccer or Catherine Ndereba of the marathon, who sprang from other continents.

Liu touched a nerve in the Chinese people. Huge corporations that are lighting up the Beijing night with their neon advertisements put their money on him. Not allowed to have a driver’s license, Liu endorses Cadillac. He was the new Chinese man, their Tiger, their Federer, their Jordan, their Beckham.

With Liu as the example, China beefed up its sports system after 2004, bringing more prospects into isolated training camps. “Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom” was one transient slogan of Chairman Mao. China dreamed of a hundred Lius.

Many other great athletes have aged between Olympics, lost their muscle tone. Sometime this spring, Liu stopped competing and went behind the screen. On June 12, Dayron Robles from Cuba, one of the last national true believers, set a world record of 12.87 seconds.

It happens that fast in sports. China was caught with its gigantic investment in Liu. Tickets for Thursday’s hurdles final were going at 10 or 20 times the original price.

That final will take place as scheduled, but the market price has fallen a trifle. Welcome to the capitalism of scalping. More important, China is left without the athlete who was expected to take on the world.

It’s all right. The new hotels are comfortable. The new subway lines are splendid. Your children are talented. Traffic is moving. The air is not as bad as we feared. Yao has advanced to the next round. The gold medals continue. It’s all right.

 

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