This week, we ran news about Taiwan’s Yen-Hsun Lu, a tennis player ranked 82, who surprised throngs of tennis fans by shoving U.S. player Andy Roddick, ranked 7, out of Wimbledon. It was shocking because while Roddick had been to the finals three times, Lu had lost in the first round during four of his previous visits to Wimbledon.
On Wednesday morning, Lu lost to Serbian Novak Djokovic, ranked 3, who advanced to the semifinals.
That doesn’t mean Lu’s Cinderella story is any less momentous. Not only was he the first Taiwanese to reach the quarterfinals of a grand slam, he was the first Asian man to do so at a major in 15 years. At only 26, Lu still has a significant career ahead of him.
Though he is ranked 82nd in the world, Lu is ranked first in Asia, which may go to show that in a sport like tennis, where moving around the court efficiently is key, Asians may be at a disadvantage due to a generally smaller physical stature compared to that of their European and American counterparts.
But as Lu proved, that doesn’t mean Asians ought to focus more of their time on the balance beam than on the courts.
Asian American Michael Chang was a trailblazer in professional tennis, winning the French Open in 1989.
These days, Asians and Asian Americans continue to steadily climb onto the rosters of professional teams in sports not known for having Asian players. Chinese American Jeremy Lin, formerly a star point guard on Harvard’s basketball team, unfortunately wasn’t drafted into the NBA, but he may still become the first American-born Asian to make it to the NBA. As reported earlier this week, he was in Dallas for a mini-camp and may join its summer league team. Chinese American Ed Wang was drafted by the Buffalo Bills in the 2010 NFL draft, supposedly making him the first full-blooded ethnic Chinese player drafted by the NFL.
Chang, Lu, Lin, and Wang have opened doors for many people — not just Asians. They are an inspiration to all the young people who were told that they are too small for a particular sport. Though the road to success is not easy, it’s important to remember that hard work pays off. When Northwest Asian Weekly interviewed Lin and Wang, both said that they faced forms of racism when they were younger, playing on sports teams.
However, though they easily could have been discouraged, they didn’t let mean words from their peers stop them from doing what they loved.
We encourage more young Asian Americans to participate in sports. Not all of us can be pro athletes, but playing sports isn’t always about winning. They’re great for your health, and playing on a team is great for your morale. Though traditional Asian parents love to stress extracurricular activities in music, we argue that it’s equally as important to participate in sports. ♦