In April 2009, the Chinese Volleyball Team announced the 18 members of the men’s national volleyball team for the 2012 Summer Olympics. Among them was Ding Hui, the first black athlete on a Chinese national team. While Ding is the first mixed-race athlete to play on a national team, a number of foreign players play in China’s professional football and basketball leagues, and foreign coaches have worked with China’s national teams.
Nicknamed “Xiao Hei” or “Little Black”, by his team mates, Ding Hui is the son of a South African father and a Chinese mother. A native of the east China city of Hangzhou, he speaks Mandarin and the Hangzhou dialect. He is a Chinese national and was raised by his single mother, Yu Jianxiu. Ding never met his father, who left China before he was born.
Ding Hui’s selection has stirred up some racial prejudices among his countrymen. Commentators have noted that he has a “pleasant and perky nature” and is talented at “singing and dancing”. On Chinese internet forums, he has been lauded for the “whiteness” of his teeth and the “athleticism of his genes”.
China’s black population is tiny. However, the black population is growing rapidly. One predominately African suburb in the southern city of Guangzhou is referred to as “Chocolate City”. Since 2003, when China started pouring investments into Africa, there has been a significant movement of Africans in the opposite direction. Hopefully, as China’s population becomes more diverse, future minority athletes will be recognized for their skills and performance, rather than their heritage.
Lee was named to the Australian team, competing as one of the youngest Australians on the 2010 Winter Olympic team at the age of 16. At the 2010 Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver, she qualified 18th in the short program, scoring 52.16 (her career personal best score), and finished in 20th place overall. Cheltzie is working towards a spot in the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.
Lee’s father is Chinese and was born in Bangladesh, and her mother was born and raised in Louisiana and is African American.
Yvonne Kanazawa (金沢 イボンヌ)
Track & Field
Although Yvonne Kanazawa grew up in Sacramento and trained and coached at California State University, she competed for Japan. “I was born in Japan. My mom is Japanese. So, I have Japanese citizenship only. I’m not a dual-citizenship person. So, I had no choice but to compete for Japan, and it worked out pretty well,” Kanazawa said.
Kanazawa is an eight-time national champion in the 100-meter hurdles with six records to her name. In 1996, she became the first female sprinter in 32 years to make an Olympic team in Japan. A Japanese record holder, Kanazawa again competed for Japan at the 2000 Olympics. She was a semi-finalist at the Summer Olympics in Sydney and retired from competition in 2004.
* Wall Street Journal: China, “China Welcomes Chinese-African Player to National Team“, April 14, 2009.
* Cheltzie Lee, Official website.
* Yvonne Kanazawa, The Study of Racialism.