Journal: stories behind the profile of world champ
By Gang Wu, for Journalistic Writing, Jour 607, due Nov 9, 2004
The weekend when I planned to interview UNR’s graduate student, multiple world championship winner, Limin Liu, she happened to have decided to move her home from a flat to upstairs on Saturday. Another Chinese girl would move in to her previous flat downstairs. With three other Chinese men, I was asked to help them move all the furniture and belongings. Then the two girls invited us to stay for dinner they cooked. I had to schedule the interview to Sunday, after she settled down. But it’s not bad that before I made a thorough research about her on the Internet to prepare the interview with her, I had the chance to chat with her without the uneasiness for both sides. We joked it as our warming-up exercise.
In a role as a normal friend, I dared to ask in which competitions she had won medals, without being shown her back for an unprepared interview. She said she used to dream of being a journalist when she was young. But later after she won numerous gold medals and broke world records in butterfly, she was often surrounded by reporters. Some were professional journalists who knew this trade and asked to-the-point questions. But some reporters really let her down as they asked silly questions which apparently showed their lack of relative knowledge and preparation.
“I might not be too rude with them,” Liu said. “But some of my big-shot colleagues, such as Olympic champion Jingyi Le, would just turn away, leaving behind those poor reporters.”
Liu said that was why she did not want to be a journalist any more.
We talked a lot before and during the dinner. Then we set Sunday night for a serious interview, in which we talked at least two hours. But unfortunately both talks took place in the other girl’s home downstairs. I did not take a good look into her new home except the memory of her room in a mess when we moved all stuff into an empty room. Now I also realized that I’ve made a mistake that I failed to add description of her environment into the profile story, as a result of my struggling to weave the abundance of information, including her swimming, study and work, into a story.
Liu is an easy-going young woman, not like many sports stars who became arrogant and snobbish from long-time bath in media spotlight. She was frank to talk about her failed love with her former teammate, and the turn-down of the chase of a Chinese engineer here in Reno. I did not think it was proper to reveal her love life in the profile story. So I kept it.
Another thing that interested me but I did not play up in my story is her revelation of the widespread drug-abuse in 1990s among the Chinese swimmers. She said she had never won a gold medal in the national games. But in world championships, those who out-swum her in national games never showed up in the medal lists as she did. Why? Because many Chinese swimming athletes took drugs in national games, but they dared not do so in world competitions. So their performance shrank in world games, Liu said.
She was very sorry that many coaches and the local sports authorities were doing the dirty game just to win medals for their political advantage. When the scandal broke out in 1994, China’s reputation in world swimming arena was tarred, the morale of the Chinese team went downhill as pressures grew and the Chinese government over-strengthened self-disciplines. This also jeopardized Liu’s last attempt to win a gold medal in the 2000 Olympics, she said. She missed the gold medal by only 0.01 second in 1996 Olympics. Her performance in 2000 was even worse.
Liu did not want me to expose the scandal of China’s wide-spread drug abuse in 1990s, especially to the Americans. “It’s shameful,” she said. But she said she was clean. ENDITEM
This paper is fascinating. There is some great information here, however I can understand why you made some of the choices that you made. It sound as if you established a good rapport with Limin, and that you are friends, sometimes you choose not to share all secrets - they could end up in another story that you write down the road</strong>
(Wolf's note: Professor Johon Trend said in class that this journal was better and much more interesting than the formal story, the profile of Limin Liu, which I got a bad grade "B-")