In this four-part series, we look at the story of Dong Jiong and how this how this Olympic silver medallist started out on his path of making a difference to disabled and hearing-impaired players in China.
The full time housekeeper
Dong Jiong is the pride of Beijing badminton.
He has that unique personality: talkative to the point he won’t stop, yet smart and sincere to everyone he speaks to. Traits he displayed both as a player and now as a coach.
In leading the Chinese national Para badminton team, he has never stopped in his search of talent and ways of making improvements to the team. Take the Short Stature (SH6) classification for example.
At present, most of the best players in China suffer from dwarfism. While they are the same height as the best foreign SH6 players, their rivals have straighter legs and arms making them more suited to playing badminton.
One day, Dong Jiong heard that there was a short stature art troupe in Beijing and decided to observe some of their talents. He came across one exponent whom he thought would be a good badminton player.
Unfortunately, this did not go down too well with the head of the art troupe and Dong Jiong was forced to give up the idea as he did not want to undermine the foundation. It did, however, indicate his creativeness and vision.
Similarly, he has always attempted to learn of the best support structures and logistics needed to assist his athletes.
In the early days at his gym in Beijing, there was no accessible hallway and no suitable accommodation for the athletes to stay, so he built a row of bungalows at the back of the gym, each equipped with a toilet and bathroom.
He also built a ramp in the corridor between the gym and the bungalow with his own hands so that players could easily reach the room in wheelchairs.
And just this year ahead the World Championships in Basel, the team spent a whole day learning how to pack their luggage and equipment correctly before heading to the airport.
Because the wheelchairs used for competition need to be treated with special care, they employed a special technique that takes up less space and is more convenient and safer to be checked-in at the airport.
On the day of departure, the players arrived at the airport three hours in advance and the suitcases and wheelchairs were packed neatly in front of the check-in counter.
“When we travel overseas for tournaments, everyone’s division of labour is clear and we all play a role to make the process simple. Even though our level of English is not good, we don’t have issues in foreign countries because we have practiced [this process] many times,” said Dong Jiong.
He also on occasions deputises as wheelchair mechanic.
On the first day of competition in Basel, he noticed that Li Hongyan had an issue with her tire vents on her wheelchair. With her failing to see the default, he quickly applied for a timeout and took the tools to urgently handle it.
While the team is not always equipped with a strong logistics service group, Dong Jiong takes it upon himself to handle the management of the players.
He has led the way in adopting best practices and ensuring elite conditions for all his athletes.
** This story was originally published on Chinese platform Tencent and translated into English with the permission of the author Zhang Nan.