A mother and her children, a relationship that binds the two for a lifetime.
Mothers give us lives and unconditionally support us during the road to grow up, but they ask nothing in return. On the track of growth, they don't ask us to run too fast, but just hope that we can go forward healthily.
In the field of competitive sports, most professional athletes leave home to engage in systematic training since they are teenagers. With years of periodic training and competitions, the time they spend with family members is just so precious.
Sport competitions always have ups and downs, but mothers may be the ones who care the least about their children’s specific performance scores. Mothers just hope that their children can grow up healthily, and they support their children silently over long distances for many years.
With the rise of the Chinese marathons, more track and field athletes began to appear in public media, to share their stories with everyone. Nonetheless, behind every shining achievement, family support for the athletes is little known.
On Mother's Day this year, we interviewed some of our Xtep Running Stars and asked them to share their stories with the most important women in their lives - their mothers.
My mother’s and wife’s contributions keep me going
Guojian Dong was born in Jiaopingdu, Luquan, Kunming, which is located in the mountainous area of Yunnan, with traffic isolation and underdeveloped educational resources. Guojian Dong went to an elementary school located in town to start his academic journey.
By coincidence, his talent was discovered by his coach and he started training for track and field. He was recommended to join the Yunnan Provincial Team at the age of 17, rooting in competitive sports all the way till now.
In the first days, he could only visit his family once a year because of the limited numbers of holidays. Now Guojian Dong’s parents have moved to Chenggong, Kunming, that means the geographical isolation of families is no longer a problem. “Basically, I can now visit them every week.”
“My mom is the most important person in my life. She always leaves the best things for me." said Guojian Dong. "Every time I go out for training or competitions, she always tells me to pay attention to safety and take good care of myself."
In addition to being a son, 34-year-old Guojian Dong is now a father of two children. He confessed that the dedication of the "two mothers" at home to the family, which allowed him to devote himself fully to training and competitions.
"My mother is very kind and virtuous. She and my wife are able to take care of the family well, so that I have no worries and can persist until now."
"Mom, you have worked hard. I love you. I wish all the mothers in the world a happy Mother's Day." said Guojian Dong.
She said if I am tired, just slow down
As a new generation of athletes, Jianhua Peng registered in Jiangxi and trained in Yunnan all year round. He is coming from Longshan, Xiangxi, Hunan, and the most troublesome thing about his career in competitive sports is missing his family.
Since joining the professional team, it has been difficult for him to meet his family during a training cycle. Generally, he can only meet them at the end of the year or on holidays, and he meets them once a year on average.
After the Xuzhou International Marathon Championships competition, his coach Li Xiao laughed and said: "This kid is getting so homesick and he wants to go home immediately. After the trials, I will give him a week off."
Jianhua Peng said that in the trajectory of his whole life, no matter what he is doing, his mother is the person who cares about him the most. "The most frequent things she had said to me was to rest more when you are tired, and slow down if you can't run."
Whether it is a coach or a public enthusiast, all of us want Jianhua to run faster, and faster. Jianhua’s mother may be the only person in the world who wants Jianhua to run slower if he is tired.
In the 2017 National Games, the 21-year-old Jianhua participated in the 10,000-meter competition, but failed to achieve the ideal results. His parents were there watching his performance in that game, which made Jianhua very depressed. In the 2021 Shanxi National Games, he hopes that his parents will come watch his game and he will do his best to not disappoint them.
“Mom, your son has grown up, and he’s becoming more and more promising. Don’t worry too much. No matter what you do in the future, I hope you can treat yourself better.”
When I became a parent, I was more aware of the greatness of the mother
Shaohui Yang is from Weishan, Dali, Yunnan, and he was born in an alpine mountainous area. He left his home and entered the Dali Sports School in his second semester of year 9. A year later, he joined the Yunnan team with coach Guowei Zhang. In the last ten years, he had few opportunities to meet his parents.
“Everytime when I leave home, she always says that I don’t need to worry about home. She would say just go, I’m always here.” Shao Hui recalled.
“I remember once during a competition, she was sick, really sick. But she told everybody around her not to let me know because she was afraid to distract me.”
Shaohui’s mother has not watched him race offline yet, and he was hoping that if he has a chance, he would love his mother to watch him run offline at the Tokyo Olympics and 2021 national games. “These two competitions mean a lot to me, so I really hope she will be there to cheer for me.”
Shaohui had his first child in 2020. He confessed that he finally understands the difficulty in being a parent and is able to appreciate his parents’ greatness. Shaohui’s mother has now moved to Chenggong, Yunnan, so they have more opportunities to meet each other, and his mother has an officially new role – grandma.
When asked what he wanted to say to his mother, Shaohui’s response was simple but down-to-earth. “Mom, happy mother’s day. Wish you healthy and all the best in the days to come. I also want to say happy mother’s day to all mothers!”
My mother was my backing in down times
Wenjun Xie was born in 1990, and now is in his thirties. As the current leader of China's short hurdles, his mother has a profound influence on Wenjun Xie's sports career.
Wenjun's mother, Liping Wu, was a sprinter (running) on the Shanghai team before, who broke the national 100-meter record many times. Perhaps because of his family atmosphere and athletic genes, he excelled early in the 110-meter hurdles.
"My mum has been very supportive of me since I started athletics when I was 14. She has always encouraged me in my life and spiritually."
"She cheered me up when I was down," said Wenjun. "My mother's support was very important to keep me going for all these years. "
After 2017, Wenjun Xie began to hear some voices of doubt. Many people around him spread the news that he might retire, but it was his mother's encouragement that kept Xie moving on.
In 2017, his persistence during the low times led him to have another career breakthrough. Wenjun Xie got the championship at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. Then, he won the championship with 13.21 seconds at the 2019 Asian Athletics Championships, breaking the Olympic record held by Xiang Liu.
Wenjun's mother worked as a civilian in the training base after retirement. Compared to the bitterness of many athletes, Wenjun and his mother are undoubtedly happy.
"When I joined the team, I saw my mother every two or three days. She often came to watch me practice. And she usually came to watch my race at the Diamond League in Shanghai." said Wenjun.
"Mother, you have worked hard for so many years. It is your support and encouragement that let me persist for so long. Thank you very much for your efforts and care for me. I will continue to run hard and never let you down. Hope I have good news in the Olympic Games, and I will strive hard for our family."
My mother held up the whole family alone
Jiayu Yang was born in Wuhai, Inner Mongolia of China in 1996. At the age of 15, she entered the race walking program as her coach discovered her talent in a cross-country competition.
Jiayu Yang’s athletic journey can be considered as quite smooth. She became a world champion at the age of 21 when she won the gold medal at the World Championships in Athletics in London, and then again at the China National Games in Tianjin. In March 2021, she set a new world record for 20km race walking with a score of 1:23:49 at the Olympic trials.
As a 25-year-old now, she has had some important achievements, but her family is her biggest regret. She has been absent a lot in the family. In 2017, while attending the 2015 Gwangju World University Games, she missed the last chance to see her father and was told of his death after that competition.
"After my father passed away, she raised my family by herself and took care of my brother and grandparents. If there's one key word to describe my mother, it's 'strong.'"
"My mother has played a great role in my life. She raised me up and taught me how to treat others and handle affairs" said Jiayu.
"In 2013, I'm going abroad for a competition and I need a document urgently. Since it was too late for the express post, my mother took the train from Wuhai all the way to Hohhot for a whole night, just to bring the document to me. Then, she bought a ticket and went back home without rest." Yang Jiayu recalls. When thinking of this again, Jiayu still feels distressed.
For now, Yang can only visit her family once a year. 2021 will also be a crucial year for her, as she is aiming for the top podium at the Tokyo Olympics in August and the National Games that follows.
"Mom, you worked hard, thank you for raising me up. I love you, and happy holidays!" said Jiayu.
#They are athletes, but also children
The competitive sports arena is often mixed with affection, joy and sorrow altogether, at the same time and in the same space. Training on the field year by year, what people cannot see behind the runners is the hidden bitterness.
This is not only an athlete's contribution individually, but also a family's contribution in many cases. When we see athletes win their gold and silver medals on stage, we must not forget what they have sacrificed in their family relationships.
Athletes in any sport have sacrificed so many family and social roles.
To all the athletes and their families, we salute you, and hats off to you!