EDITORIAL: 'Glory of Taiwan' highlights failure to cultivate local talent

Editorial Desk in Taipei/The China Post
Asia News Network

Taipei (The China Post/ANN) - For several years, many Taiwanese athletes have made the nation proud and gained international renown because of their excellent performances on the global stage.

The long list of these men and women, so-called "the Glory of Taiwan," started around 2005 when pitcher Chien-Ming Wang began to shine in the United States' Major League Baseball (MLB) with the New York Yankees.

Following the success story of Wang, Los Angeles Dodgers' Taiwan-born left-hander Kuo Hong-chih stole the show with his dominating performance on the mound despite the fact that he was plagued by injuries during his MLB career.

Aside from these talents shining on baseball diamonds, tennis player Rendy Lu, whose underdog story of becoming the first Taiwanese player to reach the quarterfinals of a Grand Slam at Wimbledon 2010, made him a new idol for locals.

In the same year on the golf course, Yani Tseng - who now holds the number one position in the Women's World Golf Rankings - won her first major championship of the LPGA season, which was only one in a series of titles she would capture.

The latest mania of "the Glory of Taiwan" is Jeremy Lin, the first Taiwanese-American NBA player. Lin has become a household name after he miraculously came off the bench to lead the New York Knicks for a season-high seven-game winning streak.

Both of Lin's parents are from central Taiwan. Because of the special bond, Taiwanese people consider him a local son and a "Pride of Taiwan."

Though some may argue that the "Glory of Taiwan" is rooted in a sense of nationalism and a form of idol worship, in a broader sense these success stories of Taiwanese athletes who compete overseas do significantly raise the country's international profile.

From a sports point of view, these internationally acclaimed players also helped to promote the development of these sports locally, or at least enhance locals' understanding and interests of these sports.

These Taiwanese sportspeople who made their names on the international stage, however, also makes one wonder whetehr Taiwan has a mature environment to nourish local talent.

These success stories apparently prove that Taiwanese and Taiwanese descendents have what it takes to make it big on several sports categories at the global level. But after all, the above mentioned Taiwanese only become top-tier athletes after undergoing training in foreign lands or under the guidance of foreign trainers.

The big question that the local government should address is whether these local men and women would be as successful if they chose to stay in Taiwan instead of exploring opportunities abroad.

For decades, this has always been the most frequently asked question in the Taiwan sports world. The local central government has been criticized for failing to pay enough attention to sports development locally. It also lacks a thorough long-term plan to promote sports within the country.

Politicians, like most local media, always attach themselves to a certain player's fame and glory only after he or she has already become a household name. Very seldom does the government offer timely assistance to struggling athletes when they most need it.

The government also offers very little help to retired athletes, which leaves a sportsperson with little motivation to continue to train within their field.

For instance, Taiwanese Olympic medalist weightlifter Chen Wei-ling told reporters shortly after she took a bronze medal in Beijing 2008 that she had hoped the government would offer her a coaching job in the future.

Chen's example reveals the ugly truth that the Taiwan government still has a lot to do in building a sound sports environment locally.

Instead of just trying to share glory with already an accomplished athletes, the authorities should take concrete measures to cultivate our own "Glory of Taiwan" locally instead forcing promising and talented athletes to fly overseas to search for opportunities.