American Olympian shoots for Chinese history

AFP
Jay Shi became the first overseas athlete of Chinese heritage to make an appearance at the National Games, a key build-up for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics,
AFP
Imaginechina

Jay Shi, 38, who represented Team USA at last summer's Rio Olympics, has made history by competing at China's National Games.

A China-born American pistol shooter has made history by competing at China's National Games, benefiting from an "unprecedented" reform that could see the country widen the net to bolster its Olympic ambitions.

Jay Shi, 38, who represented Team USA at last summer's Rio Olympics, failed to get through Monday's qualification round of the men's 50-meter pistol competition in the northern city of Tianjin, Xinhua news agency said.

But Shi became the first overseas athlete of Chinese heritage to make an appearance at the National Games, a key build-up for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, said Xinhua.

"It's amazing, even now I can't believe it," Shi, a web engineer who was born in Tianjin before emigrating to the United States as a child, said.

Earlier this summer, China's top sports body said it would accept entries from foreign athletes of Chinese origin or ancestry, as well as Chinese citizens living abroad, for the first time in the 58-year history of the quadrennial event.

Although details remain unclear, Xinhua in June called it "an unprecedented reform" and quoted a senior sports official as saying members of the Chinese diaspora who impress in Tianjin could be considered for the Tokyo Olympics.

Seven other athletes from the Chinese diaspora were cleared to take part in Tianjin, said Xinhua.

"Showing up on the National Games arena and hearing my relatives chant and cheer for me is an experience as precious as hitting a bull's eye," added Shi, whose US Olympic profile says his hometown is Phoenix, Arizona.

China is tapping into its vast diaspora after falling to third —  behind the US and Great Britain — in the medals table at the Rio Games.

China topped the medals table when it hosted the 2008 Beijing Games, but was second to the US at London 2012.

Beijing will become the first city to host a Summer and Winter Games when it stages the 2022 Winter Olympics.

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