Last October, I ran into this team on accident as I was practicing on the track at a school close to my host family’s house. Coach Liu, the coach of the private team, took notice in my running capabilities and invited me to practice with them. He worked all year on improving my form, which in return aided me in running the 400m. The older and more experienced teammates would not only coach me, but also motivate me to do better. To have someone constantly take time from their practice just to give me advice shows how much they cared. Furthermore, one day I was practicing 200m repeats when I tripped over another teammate’s foot. I tumbled forward three times and my leg was bleeding profusely. Numerous teammates from all over the field rushed to check on me and take me to the nurse’s office to bandage me up. Their willingness to help me up when I’d fallen showed how they truly felt about me. From that day forward, I referred to them as a part of my official track family.
In March I competed in my first track competition abroad. The competitive atmosphere was quite different than in America. Everyone was focused on me. Even as I warmed up people were entering the warm-up area just to catch a glance of me. This sudden draw of attention caused me to become extremely nervous. When I approached the starting line my heartrate drastically sped up. This all-eyes-on-me feeling was one I had never felt before. As a result, I raced poorly and felt completely humiliated. The time I ran was much slower than my average. As I returned to my team’s resting area tears filled my eyes. Coach Liu took notice and immediately came over to encourage me. He said that he would remain my coach for life and to not worry about the results. Hearing those words, I determined to perform better at my next competition.
I formed quite a strong bond with my track team at Wenzao. It was formed through pain, struggle, and pushing each other to the limit. On that team, I found my track brother, Louis. We went from eating lunch to breaking school records together. I am extremely grateful for finding such a phenomenal teammate and friend.
My next big competition came in May. It was in Taipei, and I competed there with my Wenzao track team. This competition was the biggest of the year since all the colleges in Taiwan came to compete at it (about 150 colleges). Coach Liu notified me that he would also go up there to watch me run. As I ran the 400m preliminary I got hurt during the last 100m and fell to second place in my heat. Although I ran poorly, I still advanced to the semifinals. After I ran, Coach Liu took me to the medical tent and sat with me for about an hour as they used various methods to relax my muscles. Due to Coach Liu’s guidance, the next day I advanced to the finals and ended up placing third. Even though I was still a little injured, I still successively placed in my favorite event. Numerous people were shocked because Wenzao had not had an athlete receive a medal in over 10 years. Wenzao is mainly known for its scholars, not by the athletes it holds. Later, Louis also placed third in the 200m. Of all the people on our track team I knew my track brother would be the one to receive a medal with me. Also, our 4x400m relay team placed 7th in all of Taiwan.
After I ran people came up to me and asked what I studied and where I went to school. I replied that my major is Electrical Engineering with a minor in Chinese. They were shocked, because in this sports community they have this strict stereotype that the more athletic a person is the less intelligent they are. I felt great knowing that I was broadening someone else’s horizon when it came to understanding people. Overall, competing in this national competition helped me not only form an impactful relationship with my teammates and Coach Liu, but also make an impact on the local sports community.
I am proud to be the trailblazer for a scholar-athlete path that has been set for future track teammates at Wenzao. To conclude, as I leave Taiwan I know that through sweat and pain I formed bonds that I will take back to America as a lifelong memory.
Thank you, NSLI-Y, for giving me a chance to make a difference.
Joey is a current student on the 2016-2017 Chinese Academic Year program in Taiwan.