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Athletes spurn offer to prolong studies

FIVE Chinese athletes, including former table tennis world champion Liu Guozheng, declined a Shanghai university's offer to prolong their studies after they failed to fulfill course requirements, school officials confirmed yesterday.

Sun Qilin, director of Shanghai Jiao Tong University's sports department, said government departments including the Ministry of Education will ask universities to enroll athletes because they have made a "great contribution to their country and have spent their youth trying to win gold medals."

The schools allow such athletes to study in their spare time or after they retire. Some of these athletes didn't take the national college entrance examination. Others did take the exam, but scored low marks that would not have been good enough to qualify for university. So perhaps it's no surprise that many sports stars have turned in subpar academic performances. The five athletes, four table tennis players and one swimmer, were enrolled by Shanghai Jiao Tong University four to six years ago due to their athletic achievements and contribution to sports. Jiao Tong offered the athletes a chance to prolong their studies, but they declined.

"It's quite common," said Sun.

Jiao Tong admits about 45 student athletes annually, accounting for 1 percent of its yearly recruits. Among them, there are world champions such as Liu and he is not the first student athlete to discontinue their studies.

"Usually they end their studies to develop their career overseas or because they have difficulty balancing work and study," Sun said.

Liu has struggled with leg injuries and has had several surgeries since 2005. He became a coach of the national table tennis team last year.

"We encourage athletes to take additional courses to enrich their mind," said Huang Biao, an official with the national table tennis team. "But training should always be the top priority for an athlete."


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