Many a badminton player has turned to coaching in their player afterlife.
None have a more inspiring story than Atlanta 1996 silver medallist Dong Jiong though.
For his journey to becoming mentor of the Chinese national Para badminton squad is one of empowerment, sacrifice and igniting belief in his pupils.
His coaching achievements came to full light this August as he stood on the podium wearing the 18 World Championships medals his star players placed around his neck in recognition of his guidance and leadership.
In this four-part series, we look at the story of Dong Jiong and how he started out on his path of making a difference to disabled and hearing-impaired children in China.
A hearing-impaired girl changed his life plan
After retiring in 2000, Dong Jiong – men’s singles silver medallist at Atlanta 1996 – decided to operate a gym and set his future life plan to teach children to play badminton.
One day, a mother and her daughter from Guangdong came to his gym. The girl was deaf-mute and wanted to learn to play badminton.
The girl had already been turned down by other training institutions in her province and with the mother out of options the pair travelled to Beijing to seek out Dong Jiong because of his highly competitive level and great reputation.
Dong Jiong immediately accepted the girl without charging any training fees and thus began one of the great coaching stories.
The appearance of the girl totally changed Dong Jiong’s perspective.
Shortly after he turned to the Yellow Pages and called the Sports Department of China Disabled Persons’ Federation proposing that he would like to help those disabled people who wanted to learn to play badminton.
He said he could offer his gym as a training facility as part of a public welfare service.
“I wanted to help not just one person but the whole group,” recalled Dong Jiong.
From there, one thing turned into another. He took part in several activities on National Disability Day and reached an agreement with relevant leaders of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation to expand his work.
Then in September 2009, Dong Jiong led the Chinese hearing-impaired badminton team to the Deaflympics. After seven years away from competitive badminton, he was excited to be back.
At that point, he realised the badminton court was his only favourite place.
** This story was originally published on Chinese platform Tencent and translated into English with the permission of the author Zhang Nan.