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A talk between Chinese athlete Lin Dan and US envoy Gary Locke

Ambassador Gary Locke (right) is interviewed by badminton champion Lin Dan. Photo: SCMP

He is a genuine American born Chinese and enjoys great popularity in China, where he is seen as the most approachable US ambassador to China. He is lionized by the Chinese people in the US due to his accomplishment of the American dream. His name is Gary Locke.

He is a top badminton player in the world and is nicknamed “Super Dan” by Chinese fans due to his aggressive style and larruping personality. He has earned the reputation of the most handsome man in China’s sports circle. His name is Lin Dan.

What issues will these two elites from very different walks of life will talk about in a face-to-face interaction, in which Lin plays the part of the interviewer?

Below is an excerpt of the interview which has been published in the Chinese edition of Men’s Health:

Lin: President Obama is your good friend and has graced the cover of the US edition of Men’s Health. In your opinion, who is better at playing badminton?

Locke: I have never played badminton with President Obama. He has been living a healthy life in an exemplary fashion. He is slim and tall, and is a basketball fan. He plays basketball very well. He is also into golf. His wife Michelle Obama is dedicated to promoting sports and nutritious diet to American people, especially the young. The couple is a good role model.

Lin: I once read a report saying no one can be as busy as Obama, who spends one to one-and-a-half hours on regular exercise after getting up. I think forming such a habit is the beginning of living a healthy life.

Locke: Mr. President and the First Lady have been advocating the concept of health in the US. Besides taking exercise, they also attach importance to nutritious diet. People have to strike a balance between work and life in a bid to have a real healthy life.

Lin: Do you like tea or coffee? What do you think is the differences between these two drinks?

Locke: I prefer tea to coffee. Although I like the taste of coffee mixed with cream and sugar very much, I have to reduce the intake of such drink in my diet as much as possible. I always enjoy the pure and simple feeling of drinking tea. It makes me relaxed.

Lin: Do you like Fan Bingbing (a famous Chinese actress) or Lady Gaga?

Locke: I cannot answer this question indeed, because I am not familiar with the films starred by Fan Bingbing. I sometimes listen to music and watch film, but I think I am not qualified to comment on these two super stars. I think that this question is more suitable for my wife and children.

Lin: Do you like sweet soybean milk or salt soybean milk? It is the bone of contention among Chinese netizens.

Locke: Actually, I am not a fan of soybean milk. I drink almond milk.

Lin: What do you think are the differences between the health concept of the Americans and Chinese?

Locke: I have no idea about how Chinese people define health, so I had better not comment on it. For the American people, health refers to physical and mental health. Health is more than a body without disease and pain. It also includes a symmetrical body type.

Lin: You gave a comprehensive definition (about health). (To have a healthy body), people need to adjust their mindset while doing exercise.

Locke: It needs a balance between body, mind and sleep.

Lin: The next question is what I am most interested in. I heard that you can maintain an abdominal plank position for 51 minutes. How can you do it given it is hard even for a professional sportsman?

Locke: It is actually the longest record I have kept. I think that this test poses equivalent challenge to one’s spirituality and physique. For me, while maintaining an abdominal plank position, I will talk with people around me or listen to music to distract my attention.

Lin: I also did the same exercise but could only last about three minutes. It seems an impossible mission for me.

Locke: Everybody can start from one or two minutes. At first, I could only do it for three to five minutes. But as I intensified my training, I could gradually do it for 15 minutes, then 20 minutes and to 51 minutes now.

Lin: The world record of maintaining an abdominal plank position is three hours and eleven minutes. Do you want to break this record?

Locke: If I can do it for one hour, I will be very happy. I just want to know where my limitation is. Three years ago, the world record was 50 minutes, and then, an hour and 20 minutes, and 16 months later, the record was broken by the same person by three more hours. It is inconceivable to maintain a position for three hours. It is a challenge to both the body and mind.

Lin: Are you a jogger? Did you jog outdoors in Beijing? How do you see Beijing’s weather?

Locke: I jogged outdoors with my daughter in Beijing for several times, but I am not good at jogging. I like outdoor sports, such as golf.

Lin: Do you mind doing outdoor sports in bad weather?

Locke: Bad weather cannot affect me. I come from Seattle, where it often rains. In that city, we did outdoor sports, such as golf, football and jogging, even in rainy days, windy days and cold days.

Lin: Are you accustomed to eating Chinese food, especially the greasy and salty Sichuan dishes?

Locke: I like Chinese food very much. My parents were born in China and I ate Chinese food every day. When I studied in law school, I always taught my roommate how to cook Chinese food.

Lin: Really? Which Chinese dishes can you cook?

Locke: I cooked Guangdong dishes, such as poached egg and boiled chicken. They are plain dishes. I try to shun greasy and salty food as much as I can.

Lin: Are you satisfied with your body? How long can you have six abdominal muscles?

Locke: I do not know how long I will have six abdominal muscles. I am re-adjusting my diet and trying to eat more healthy food. What is your advice?

Lin: Chinese athletes consume some salt under doctor’s guidance, because the daily training makes them lose more salt and iodine than ordinary people. The reason why they have good build is that they consistently do intensive training every day.

Locke: In order to help me keep pace with her and our children, my wife Mona has been asking me to keep fit. My children are very active. Mona is skilled in skiing, so I and my children attended skiing courses. In Seattle, I drove my children to a nearby mountain to learn skiing every Saturday in several winters. Skiing is now my family’s favorite sports.

Lin: Did you think of being a politician when you were a boy?

Locke: When I was young, I did not dream of having a job related to politics or the government. I thought of being a teacher or a forester. I am content with my current life and I am very lucky to get blessings from God, one of which is my perfect family. In my extended family, every member enjoys harmonious relationship. I gained much support from my wife, my three children and my extended family. I have a warm-hearted and beautiful wife and three excellent children. I am very lucky.

Lin: I seldom talk about my family with my leaders and friends. But many of my foreign friends often talk about their families after work. I think they have a different notion that a family is more important than a job. I think Chinese people need to change their attitude toward family.

Locke: As I grew up, my parents have always been stressing the importance of family. My father was born in an impoverished Chinese village. He often sends money to his hometown’s relatives. He always says to me that our success is inseparable from the sacrifice of our big family. As far as I know, family has a very important status in the Chinese traditional culture.

Lin: Do you believe in fate? Whom will you ask for help when you have difficulty in making a decision?

Locke: I will consult my wife when I have problems. She is a wise, intellectual and thoughtful woman. I did not deliberately make a plan for my political career. Even when I studied in the school of law, I did not think of engaging in politics. I think everyone should be well-prepared for the things they will do in the future. When opportunities come, one can grasp it on the strength of his or her skills and experience.

Lin: How do you relax yourself to release your pressure from work?

Locke: I enjoy staying with my family. For instance, I read books with my children when they were young. Now, I attend their musical performance and sports events. I also like fixing my house and repairing my car.

Lin: Talk about your wife? I was told she was a model. I also heard that you proposed marriage to her for three times and you even made use of a helicopter.

Locke: Mona was a TV reporter. She is not a model, but she is very beautiful and healthy. Some of what you said is true. But I only made one proposal. I rented a six-seat helicopter as she had said to me that my proposal should be peculiar. I steered the helicopter hovering around her apartment, with a banner tied to the rail wing reading “I love you, Mona. Do you marry me?”

Lin: What do you think is the biggest support your wife gives to you?

Locke: Mona is an accommodating and warm-hearted woman. She always thinks of others’ happiness and her family. My success is entirely attributed to her.

Lin: If you are given an aptitude by God, how will you use it to help your children?

Locke: I hope that my children can live happily. I will feel satisfied if they can have a colorful life. No matter what they will do in the future, I will always proud of them. I expect them to be considerate and respectful.

Lin: Why did you decide to leave the post in Beijing?

Locke: This decision was made in early 2013. During the past several years, we moved from Seattle to Washington, and then, to Beijing, which might have impacted my children's education. The decision is mainly for our eldest daughter. We believe it is very important for her to return to the US to finish her high school and then go to college in the US. After our discussion, we decided for my wife and children to go back to Seattle in the summer of 2013, where we have many friends and relatives. At that time, we also made a decision that I will reunite with them in a few months. We are a family, we are apart for too long. I miss them very much.

Lin: Will you talk with the next ambassador about PM 2.5?

Locke: I will not talk with the next ambassador about PM 2.5, because everyone knows about this issue and the Chinese government has taken it seriously. My sincere advice to him is to visit various places in China, and understand local customs and practices. Beijing is not China and big cities cannot be representative of China. China is made up of a great many big cities and small villages, with geography, climate and culture differing greatly.

Lin: Do you have interest in writing a health-related column in the Chinese edition of Men's Health?

Locke: Recently, I learned a lot about health and bodybuilding, but I do not know whether I am qualified to write a column.

(The article is translated by Ding Yi)

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