WACO, Texas (KWTX) More than 30 elite Chinese athletes including Olympians and Olympic hopefuls are in Central Texas training for the next few weeks.
The Chinese athletes attended the Baylor-Oklahoma football game Saturday and were invited on the field where they posed for pictures with Baylor President Linda Livingstone. (Courtesy photo)
The athletes are members of the Chinese National Rowing, Canoeing and Kayaking teams and while they’re traveling to New Braunfels to get in their water training, they’re hitting Midway High School’s weight room as well as D1’s training facility in Waco to work out.
“For us, it’s been a great honor,” said D1 owner Kevin Engelbrecht.
“We hear about all this friction (between the U.S. and China), but this group couldn’t be more hospitable and respectful.”
The foreign teams chose to train more than 7,000 miles from home because members of the Chinese coaching staff knew athletic staff members at Midway as well as at Baylor.
The team members say they chose Waco because they had heard so many good things about Central Texans love and spirit of sports.
“They wanted to come to Texas because everything they’re trying to achieve; they think is embedded in our culture here from nutrition to discipline,” Engelbrecht said.
Xin Li is the group’s director of performance.
“First of all we want to express our gratitude,” Li told KWTX through a translator.
“The hospitality here, including at D1 has been amazing. We feel like we are at home, even away from Beijing.”
In the mornings the men and women train at Midway High School before hitting the sprawling D1 facility on Franklin Avenue in the afternoons for another workout where Engelbrecht says they share the turf with McLennan Community College softball players and the Baylor Cheer Squad.
The respect is mutual and led to an invitation for the athletes from China to attend their first American football game, which just happened to be the biggest game of the day in college football as the Bears took on Oklahoma in the game featured on ESPN’s College Gameday.
The team members were invited on the field where they posed for pictures with Baylor President Linda Livingstone.
“They couldn’t believe it,” Engelbrecht said.
“Linda Livingstone took pictures with them and the atmosphere just reinforced the spirit of sport that’s in our culture.”
The group arrived from Beijing Nov. 14 and will return home on Dec. 8.
They’re staying at a local hotel, but eating their meals in a Baylor dining hall.