Team China's new podium uniform, produced by Anta, is modeled by current and former Olympians at Friday's official launch event for the Olympic costume. (PHOTO / CHINA DAILY)
With just under a month to go until the Tokyo Games, China's Olympians are confident of a safe and successful trip to Japan thanks to the support and protection they are receiving from the nation.
The postponement of the Olympics has had huge impact on us. We had a very comprehensive plan for the Tokyo Games, but the pandemic disrupted our preparations and we had to readjust.
Xiao Ruoteng, Team China artistic gymnast
"All of the national team athletes are vaccinated, and the General Administration of Sport of China has provided us with the best protection," artistic gymnast Xiao Ruoteng told China Daily at the launch ceremony for Team China's Tokyo Olympics podium uniform, produced by Anta.
"So we don't have too much to worry about in terms of the safety of the Tokyo Olympics. Many international sports leagues are returning. I'm very confident of a successful Tokyo Games."
The 25-year-old Xiao will be making his Olympic debut in Tokyo after missing the 2016 Rio Games because of injury. Naturally, he is feeling a little nervous as the Games approach, but he also exudes a quiet confidence that he will be donning Anta's new Team China gear on the podium in Tokyo.
"I'm recovering well from my injuries. I'm in good condition and I will present the best version of myself in Tokyo," Xiao added.
"We just finished our training in Shanghai. We are in good physical and mental shape, and overall we're in great spirits. Our goal is to stand on the podium at the Tokyo Olympics. As for my rivals, I think my biggest opponent is myself. The challenge is to show the best of me on the biggest stage."
Like thousands of athletes across the globe, Xiao should have fulfilled his dream of participating in the Olympics last year, only for the COVID-19 pandemic to force the postponement of the Games. He admits that extra year has been hugely challenging.
"The postponement of the Olympics has had huge impact on us. We had a very comprehensive plan for the Tokyo Games, but the pandemic disrupted our preparations and we had to readjust," said Xiao.
"It was hard for us, but we have all made major adjustments and devised new arrangements. The Olympics are almost here and now we feel the pressure. Honestly, I'm a little bit nervous, but the team is helping us cope."
Taekwondo star Zhao Shuai, who won gold in the 58-kilogram class at the 2016 Rio Games, also found the postponement tough to deal with at first. However, the 25-year-old says he is now feeling good about his chances in Tokyo.
"I had to adjust my mentality and change my training plans. The coach helped me to adjust, and now everything is back on the right track," said Zhao at Friday's ceremony.
"I feel I'm in great condition now and I'm really looking forward to the Tokyo Games. We didn't have a chance to participate in international competitions, but we know a lot about our rivals through watching videos. We've kept analyzing them.
"I have confidence in myself, but I don't want to think too much about the result. All we need to do is to make the best preparations we can and I will try my best in Tokyo."
Athletes are also drawing confidence from the support of the nation and all sectors of society.
Take Anta, for example. As an official partner of the Chinese Olympic Committee, the sportswear giant has designed Team China's podium uniform for Tokyo, and will kit out numerous national teams across a wide variety of sports at the Games.
Working with the Chinese Olympic Committee for 16 years, Anta has invested over 3 billion yuan ($460 million) into the research and development of sportswear technology, and has provided sportswear to 28 Chinese national teams at various Olympic Games.
Anta also launched several specially designed sports gear on Friday. The fiber used in its custom-made weightlifting shoes, for example, is 2.5 times stronger than the regular materials.
The podium uniform, however, was the undoubted star of Friday's show. Designed by Oscar-winning art director Ye Jintian, aka Tim Yip, the costumes earned a resounding thumbs-up from all the athletes in attendance.
"I feel good about the new Team China uniform. The design is really creative. It looks really good, and the details really impressed me," said Zhao. "I hope to wear this great uniform to stand on the highest podium at the Tokyo Olympics."
Xiao concurred, saying: "The design is different from previous editions. Also it integrates a lot of elements from traditional Chinese culture."
Legendary boxer Zou Shiming, who won light flyweight golds at the 2008 Beijing and 2012 London Games, also attended Friday's ceremony. The 40-year-old said: "The design and quality of the Team China uniforms are improving year after year," said Zou.
"The current generation of Chinese athletes enjoy a better training environment and better technology. I know the nation's boxing team has been preparing for the Tokyo Olympics the best they can in the face of all the difficulties presented by the pandemic. I believe they will bring back surprises."
HONG KONG NEWS