Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Sevens: Chinese women ready to shake sevens world

China's women's team are a realistic chance of winning Olympic medals. Photo / Getty Images
China's women's team are a realistic chance of winning Olympic medals. Photo / Getty Images

Napoleon once said "Let China sleep; when she wakes, she will shake the world."

While his pithy turn of phrase was directed more at the country's potential to secure global power than a 2016 Olympic sevens gold medal, it holds true regardless.

If China get the right direction and investment there are New Zealand Rugby Union concerns a prospective Olympic Games sevens medals could be jeopardised. It remains a Catch-22. Expand the game for greater exposure and potentially wider employment and revenue streams for New Zealanders; keep the status quo and you might win gold but limit marketing opportunities.

The Chinese men's team are not seen as a major threat. There's a belief they have several years to make up before contending for an Olympic podium spot. The Chinese women are a different story.

Former North Harbour centre and veteran national sevens representative and coach Scott Pierce spent 18 months before Christmas training Chinese athletes. They have two major bases: At Beijing Agricultural University and Shandong. A few subtle tweaks could awaken them.

The New Zealand women's team get $1.6 million of investment over the first two years of the Olympic cycle. They have gone some way towards justifying it by winning the first women's world series last season. The Chinese threat is more human resource-based. Pierce says they have 10 fulltime groups of 30 women who are paid "bugger all" to train, but all their expenses are met.

"When they talk about medal opportunities, it's more about women than men. We've got better footballers but they've got better depth," Pierce says. "Talent wise they're phenomenal. Big girls play the game but because they have no siblings [through the country's one-child population control policy], they don't tend to understand the concept of collective achievement. I can see their work ethic imploding because it's all me-me-me. They tend to play a similar pattern all the time which means they are easy to manipulate and beat up on.

"China are currently governed by archaic policies so I can't see them progressing. It essentially comes down to a rivalry between the Beijing and Shandong provinces. For instance China sent a Beijing-weighted team to the final world series event in Amsterdam and got cleaned up, [finishing11th]."

China are also understood to have tried gleaning knowledge off Sir Gordon Tietjens and Eric Rush during New Zealand tours.

As well, the Taranaki union has worked with Beijing's Xiannongtan Athletics School, which has produced several Olympic champions.

Shhh, the beast is restless ...

• Andrew Alderson travelled to Moscow with the assistance of New Zealand Rugby.

- Herald on Sunday

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