XI'AN, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) -- Zhang Dechang, a male cox who claimed the women's eight bronze at the Tokyo Olympic Games one and a half months ago, again took the stage of China's 14th National Games in Yangling, Shaanxi Province, where the nation's top-class water sports center is located.
Apart from the Tokyo Games where Zhang and his Olympic teammates equalled China's feat in rowing back at the 1988 Seoul Games, the 43-year-old Shandong native has never relaxed for a second, devoting himself entirely to the preparations for the quadrennial event's rowing competitions slated on September 14-19.
"A cox is like a navigator, who is responsible for organizing tactics, as well as encouraging team players when they are exhausted," Zhang said. "We are half-coach on a boat."
At the National Games, dubbed the "mini Olympics", he coxes a combined team of six different provinces and municipalities, namely Hubei, Hunan, Liaoning, Shandong, Beijing and Tianjin.
Standing among the eight female rowers, Zhang seems humble and small with tanned skin, but in his rowers' mind, he's a leader-like figure.
A former rower himself, Zhang was a champion at the country's 9th National Games and won the Busan Asian Games in 2002. After retiring as an athlete, he coxed the men's eight for China at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
In 2019, Zhang rejoined the national team as a coach, but his experience at Beijing 2008 made him the first-choice cox for the Olympic squad, serving with the women's eight team this time.
To make the boat lighter and faster, Zhang had been exercising a lot everyday and never eaten his fill to lose more that 10 kilograms within three months.
Talking about the bronze medal they won at Tokyo 2020, Zhang contributed the "fairly good result" to teamwork and that the women rowers' efforts paid off.
"They have to paddle all out against the resistance on water, and sweat as much as they could on rowing test instrument on land for strengthening their core, even when they are too tired," he said.
Zhang's rowing teammates, however, assigned him an important roll and called him "the pillar on the boat."
Proud of what the Chinese rowing team has achieved in Tokyo, Zhang notes the improvement of China's water sports efforts in recent years and expects more in the future.
"We have broken the western countries' monopoly in this sport, and the result achieved by the Chinese rowing reflects China's speed and strength," he said. "Hopefully we can keep moving on and shine again on the Paris Olympic stage in three years." Enditem