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26th Summer Universiade Wrap-Up
Cover Stories Series 2011> 26th Summer Universiade Wrap-Up
UPDATED: August 29, 2011 NO. 35 SEPTEMBER 1, 2011
Realizing Dreams
Showcasing the abilities of the world's youth

LET ME FLY: Jiang Fan (center) dashes to the finish line. Jiang, a student of Tianjin University of Finance and Economics, won a silver medal with 13.55 seconds in the men's 110-meter hurdles on August 20 (CNSPHOTO)

Future sports stars started to shine at the 2011 Universiade in Shenzhen, a biennial event that has been changing young people's lives since the inaugural competition in 1959.

Although the level of competition does not match the standards of the Olympics many global superstars made their debut at the Universiade, which is open to student athletes between the ages of 17 and 28, who are still studying in university or have not been out of school for more than a year.

But the Universiade 2011 was about more than the athletes on the track. The event involved hundreds of thousands of volunteers, supporters and professionals, who played an integral role in the games' success.

Striving for success

When Olympic medalist Liu Xiang, representing Asia, lit the games' flame at the opening ceremony of the Shenzhen games, he realized his dream of returning to the Universiade.

"The Universiade is where my dream began, and it is still alive now. Though I can't compete in it this year, I'm delighted to have been involved as a torch bearer," the 110-meter hurdles gold-medalist said.

As one of China's sporting icons, Liu, then a student of Shanghai East China Normal University, gained his first world title at the Beijing Universiade in 2001 when he was 18 years old.

Following this victory he began to make history, breaking the Asian and world records and then winning Olympic and world championship gold medals, respectively, in 2004 and 2007.

With Liu, China got a chance to rewrite the history of track and field athletics.

Held every two years, the Universiade has long been a stage for future stars from top universities to show off their prowess. Major sports icons including American sprinter Michael Johnson, China's "Prince of Gymnastics" Li Ning, the newly crowned French Open champion Li Na, the basketball superstar Yao Ming, and Yang Wei, one of China's most accomplished gymnasts, all made their debuts at Universiades.

For Yang Wei, one of China's leading contemporary gymnasts, the Universiade was an opportunity to prove himself. At the Beijing Universiade in 2001, he began his journey to the peak of world gymnastics. That year, he won his first individual gold medal in international competition, ending a long history of second place finishes.

Before 2001, Yang had won several team gold medals in international competitions, but never an individual gold medal. Since the Beijing Universiade, Yang has been the all-around champion at three world gymnastics championships and he became an Olympic gold medalist in 2008.

Besides those legendary stars, the Universiade this year also featured rising talent, bearing their countries' hopes of future Olympic and international glory.

On the night of August 18, the Chinese men's soccer team had their Universiade football dreams dashed after losing 2-3 to Japan in the quarterfinals. Despite the loss the young Chinese players won the respect of local fans with their perseverance and determination. Yang Yang, a midfielder on the Chinese side, scored a superb solo goal during the match.

The 26-year-old Yang long dreamed of being a professional player, but failed to pass trials at several clubs in Guangdong and Zhejiang provinces.

He then went back to school to take the national college examination and was admitted to the Beijing Institute of Technology in 2003.

Yang soon became a member of the campus team and got the chance to play in the second-tier professional league with the team. The Shenzhen Universiade gave him the opportunity to don the national uniform.

"We play soccer because we love the sport," said Yang, who has a doctorate in business administration. "As students, we hope to play for our university. Meanwhile, the university also needs us, so we keep playing. The experience also helps to broaden our horizons."

China also secured some surprising successes in the field of athletics during the games.

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