World champion Zhao Hanqing is fighting for her first gold at the draughts of the 13th China’s National Games.
The 23-year-old player wishes to become “Li Na” of draughts, helping to promote the event in China. Li Na, who won two tennis Grand Slam titles, is her idiot and encourages her to move forward in her event.
Zhao was a Go player and had won almost all the Go tournaments of provincial level as a kid in Hubei Province. When She entered middle school in 2007, Zhao decide to play draughts instead of Go.
“It is very easy to learn how to play draughts, and the event just entered China at that time. Many players of other events took on draughts at that time, and I was one of them,” said Zhao.
In 2008, the 14-year old Zhao became a student of Chizhov Alexey, Russia’s renowned world champion. Zhao always sees that as a turning point of her draughts career.
In the next few years, Zhao won almost all the national titles of draughts. Her enthusiasm for the sport upsurged and she received 10-hour training for draughts everyday.
“Actually, the training of mind sports can be tiring and tedious as it may take longer time for recoveries,” Zhao said.
Zhao’s hard works paid off in the 2012 World Youth draughts Championship in the Netherlands as she won the title with huge advantage in the nine rounds of finals. She became the first Chinese player to win the tournament, and also the first Chinese woman who qualified for the World Championship.
After the win, Zhao decided to go to Russia for bachelor’s degree in 2014 and hoped to play more games against top players of Russia.
“I always remember my desire of improving my draughts skills in Russia. Otherwise, I can barely survive the long and cold winter,” Zhao said, “I want to continue my study for a master’s degree in a warmer country.”
Zhao always looks up to her mentor Chizhov Alexey. “Mr. Chizhov is highly motivated and self-disciplined. He is a top player ‘once in half a century’,” She said.
This year’s draughts tournament marks the first time that the event has been included in China’s National Game. “Players from 22 provinces are competing in such a high-level playing field. That’s really good for the sport,” Zhao said.
Zhao Hanqing said she’d like to win a world-class lever tournament in a few years to put the sport under the national spotlight, just like Li Na did in tennis.
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