Outspoken Chinese tennis star Li Na has called for an overhaul of the nation’s famously rigid sports programme to give athletes the right to pursue their careers without strict government controls.
Li, China’s second highest ranked player at 31 in the world with career earnings of over 1.6 million dollars, said she would never have even pursued tennis if sports chiefs had not forced her to.
“If I had an opportunity to choose what I wanted to do in childhood, I wouldn’t have gone for tennis,” Li told the China Daily newspaper in comments published on Wednesday.
“It is a sport that I was always pushed to do, first by my parents, then provincial and national sports administrators.”
China’s leading female tennis players broke ground last year by escaping from the administrators that had previously governed their careers, and Li called for athletes in other sports to enjoy similar freedoms.
“I love what it is right now. In the past, national or the provincial sports administrators arranged everything for you and you had no options but to follow their arrangements,” said Li, aged 27.
“It is very important for us to have the right to choose. I really mean it.”