Head coach of the Chinese women’s Sevens team, Lu Zhuan says the postponed Olympics is allowing his squad to grow in skill and confidence ahead of next year’s Games in Tokyo.
Despite the interruptions associated with the outbreak of COVID-19, Zhuan believes his athletes have continued to take positives steps towards realising their Olympic dream.
“After the virus outbreak, the top priority became the health of our athletes,” he said.
“We have strengthened our player management to ensure they live in safe environments and conduct only closed training sessions.
“Despite the limitations, the national team has been training intensively.
“The focus has been on physical training, with the whole squad as fit and rehabilitated as possible.”
China gained automatic qualification into the Olympics by taking out the Asia Rugby Women’s Sevens Qualifying Tournament in November last year.
The Chinese squad were dominant throughout, remaining undefeated and conceding only one try in the entire tournament.
Zhuan’s side went on to meet Hong Kong in the Final, winning comfortably 33-0.
For Yan Meiling, securing a place in the Olympics was a moment of immense pride for the entire team.
“I will never forget that day,” she said.
“I remember the moment the final whistle blew, the whole squad huddled together and everyone had tears in their eyes.
“It all came from our dedication in the early stage of preparation, from there we were able to win the honour for ourselves and our country.”
Yan Meiling believes that while the team has not played competitively since the qualifying tournament, they’re using the lockdown period productively to further their rugby development.
“All teams have to face the postponement of the Olympics,” she said.
“What we can do is accept the challenge and grow together during this time.
“We should take advantage of this period to familiarise ourselves with our goals and do whatever we can to achieve them.”
Rugby Sevens has not been a sport long associated with Chinese culture, however, Yan Meiling believes the upcoming Olympics allows her squad the opportunity to introduce their country to the fast-paced game.
“Rugby was a hobby for me at first, but now it is a passion,” she said.
“This sport gives me a sense of mission and responsibility, which is now focal to my life.
“I just really want to do my country proud and contribute towards the growth of this sport in Chinese culture.”