Xiong Dunhan, who plays as center forward in Chinese women's water polo team, has attracted a huge group of followers by posting her life and training with the national team on social media, and she vowed to boost the sport through her personal influence.
by sportswriter Wang Junbao
HANGZHOU, Sept. 28 (Xinhua) -- Water polo has not been a well-received sport yet in China, but Xiong Dunhan is devoted to boosting the sport through her personal influence.
Xiong, who plays as center forward in Chinese women's water polo team, often posts her life and training with the national team and attracted a huge group of followers on China's social media Weibo, a twitter-like platform.
"I've always been trying to promote water polo by displaying the unity and happiness of our team on social media. In this way, we can open this sport to the public," said 23-year-old Xiong, who is currently competing in the Hangzhou Asian Games, in which China are seeking to win their fourth straight title in the event.
Xiong has built up a fan base of over two million on Weibo. "I am glad that a lot of people like me, but I hope more people will like this sport and give some attention to China's water polo team," she added.
Her efforts seem to have paid off. In China's previous matches at the Asiad, the venue stand, Huanglong Sports Center Aquatic Sports Arena, can be 80 percent seated.
"In the past, there were few spectators in domestic water polo competitions. But since the World University Games in Chengdu, we have seen more and more audiences coming on site," said Xiong, who helped China win the Universiade gold in August.
"We feel really excited and more motivated," Xiong is encouraged by the positive feedback.
Known as "underwater football" by some, water polo is a very physical demanding sport. Xiong, who started training at 11, has inflicted some injuries over the years, but her love and devotion for the sport is not hindered.
"The physical confrontations as a center forward are intense. My feet and hands suffered frequent fractures," Xiong said. "But this hasn't put out my passion for water polo."
Xiong revealed the teamwork and confrontation are what's appealling to her the most in water polo. "Water polo has given me a lot of unique experiences. If let me choose again, I would still prefer to be a water polo player," she said.
China has won all three previous Asian Games gold medals since 2010 and Xiong is eager to defend the title this time at home tournament to extend China's winning streak.
"If we win reach the top of podium here, I believe it will be the best way to promote water polo in China," she anticipated.