|Chinese women's gymnastics team head coach Lu Shanzhen said he hopes injured superstar Cheng Fei can extend her career to a third Olympic Games.
Chinese women's coach Lu Shanzhen said he hopes injured star Cheng Fei can extend her career to a third Olympic Games.
If Cheng can continue, she would be the first Chinese female gymnast to compete in major events past age 21, Lu noted in an article published Monday in a Chinese newspaper.
The 21-year-old Cheng underwent surgery after tearing her ACL at the 11th National Games in September. Several top gymnasts, including Li Shanshan and Xiao Sha, officially retired following the National Games, but Cheng was not among them.
Cheng has said she hopes to recover over a period of six months to a year, but plans to reassess her comeback during that time. Lu is hopeful she can be China's first female three-time Olympian.
"The female gymnast's career is very short, and many retire after competing in the Olympic Games," he said. "Cheng's age is old compared with our younger athletes, but according to gymnastics current trends, she is not considered old. Now many international athletes compete past 20 years old. The new gymnastics rule has brought a very big change, and we also want to try [to compete older athletes]."
Cheng is China's most decorated female gymnast, winning five world championship gold medals and a team gold at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.
Cheng currently divides her day between rehabilitation and her studies, Lu said. She is pursuing an advanced degree at the Wuhan Institute of Physical Education.
"While she made great contributions to gymnastics, she urgently needs to enhance her education," Lu said. "I think if we can take advantage of this rehabilitation time to study, it could possibly extend her competitive career."