China bans jumper for flouting team rules

SHANGHAI • China has suspended high jumper Zhang Guowei, a World Championships silver medallist, after he broke the country's strict rules on commercial activities.

According to Xinhua news agency, the Chinese Athletic Association punished the 27-year-old for attending two commercial events between late last month and early this month without permission.

The length of his suspension was not specified.

But Zhang - known for his flamboyant "twerking" celebrations - said he was "still fighting on the front lines of the national team" despite his ban from all competitions.

Writing on Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, Zhang added: "I deeply felt the care, concerns and expectations from them.

"The officials expressed their understanding and tolerance towards my behaviour. Please don't worry!"

A quirky character, Zhang is known to celebrate successful jumps by "twerking" and striking poses, before sprinting towards spectators.

He suffered injuries and loss of form after his 2015 World Championships runner-up finish in Beijing, ending up well outside the medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

His best jump this season is just 2.21m, way off his personal best of 2.38m set in 2015, which is 1cm off the national record.

Chinese athletes who come from a state-sponsored sport system have to seek approval from the General Administration of Sport of China before any sponsorship deal can be signed.

In 2015, two-time Olympic gold medallist shuttler Lin Dan quit the People's Liberation Army Bayi Badminton Club to spend more time on commercial pursuits.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 19, 2019, with the headline 'China bans jumper for flouting team rules'. Print Edition | Subscribe