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The first group of athletes from Bejing Sport University will not be the last to enjoy a stay at UW after the university announced Tuesday the Chinese Champion program will be extended three more years.[/media-credit]

After officials from both the University of Wisconsin and the Beijing Sport University hailed the Chinese Champions Program a success, the decision to extend the program for an additional three years will coincide with the release of a film documenting the athletes’ experiences.

For the 2010 fall term, nine world-class Chinese athletes and coaches traveled to UW for an introduction to American education and the Madison community.

Li Li Ji, professor of kinesiology, said the success of the program was partly because UW has a positive image abroad, in addition to Chancellor Biddy Martin’s recent initiative to increase university involvement in China.

He said UW has a tremendous reputation in academics and is very highly regarded by the next generation of Chinese students.

Ji added while Chinese officials viewed the partnership as more of a commercial opportunity, UW personnel advocating the program took the more philosophical position of serving the global community.

Joe Feng, creative director of John Roach Productions, a film company that made a documentary about the athletes, said the Chinese education system is a vastly different from an education at a research university like UW.

These students attend athletic schools instead of more traditional academic universities and are often left with few options if they fail to reach professional status.

“With a more integrated model of athletics and academics, students would still be left with a degree,” Feng said. “We’re trying to protect the athletes that aren’t the lucky few.”

He added the UW campus also impressed the visiting athletes because Chinese universities are typically isolated and fenced off to the general population.

Feng contacted UW about the possibility of making the documentary after being impressed by the scope of the program.

The product of nearly two weeks of filming and editing is a 30 minute long film documenting the athletes’ experience in Madison, which was aired yesterday on the Big Ten Network.

The documentary integrates the academic, cultural and athletic aspects of the athletes’ time in Madison, Feng said.

While providing great exposure for the university, he said the documentary would also serve Martin’s goal of raising UW’s profile in China.

He added making the film was a rewarding experience because he was able to use his Chinese heritage and background and his involvement as a UW alum.

Ji said the athletes spent days divided between programming for learning English and kinesiology study, as well as topics of sports management and social sciences.

He said the students came to regard Madison as their home and were invited by China’s Minister of Education to present on their experience as a model for future partnership programs.

“The program is mutually beneficial, and the campus is fond of it,” Ji said. “With all the energy and Biddy’s vision we would like to see it become continual.”

The Chinese Scholarship Council funds the athletes’ accommodations, travel cost and other basic costs while UW provides the educational cost, he said.

The next group of 17 athletes and coaches will arrive in March after spring break to begin their experience as UW students.