Since the Coronavirus outbreak, Deng Linlin has barely left her house. She groaned when the interviewer asked about adjusting to indoor life. “I came here [California] last September, the situation [COVID-19] has been getting worse. I’m at home every day and can’t go out.” Although stuck inside, she has found ways to stay busy. “Besides studying, I get together with others and do some exercises. Then we cook together, my culinary skills have improved quite a bit.”
After retiring from gymnastics in 2013, the two-time Olympic champion attended Peking University, one of China’s most prestigious universities, to get her bachelor’s degree in international relations. She admitted transitioning from an elite level athlete to a university student was difficult at first “When I first started at Peking University, I wanted to study really hard but I didn’t know how to begin. There were so many things I needed to do- I was a little lost. Because in fact, we grow up on the sports team from a young age, we have a totally different path than regular students.” In China, athletes usually receive minimal schooling thus the transition to student life can be extremely difficult compared to regular students who are accustomed to the rigorous academics. “For university life and your career afterward, you need to plan for yourself. When I first started University I was confused. There were lots of curvy roads, I didn’t know how to plan, I just wasted a lot of time. Until now I continue to study, take notes. How do you study? In this area, I’m continuing to learn.”
Linlin is continuing to improve her English skills while staying in California. During her time on the National Team, because of her rigorous training schedule and limited resources Linlin’s English didn’t develop at the pace she had hoped. “When I was an athlete, I feel like another athlete who could speak two languages was really impressive. During my time on the National Team, a sports donation association donated resources for an English class, we took classes frequently. Every time we went abroad for a competition, we saw athletes from non-English speaking countries like Russia who could speak English and thought this was a really cool thing. I thought “why can’t I do it?” so this made me envious. I feel like learning sports and English aren’t too different, it’s a tool, you need to continue to train and study. Memorizing words is like doing a flic-flic-layout, practicing it once is not enough, all you need is to work hard.”
In addition to obtaining her Master’s degree at California Baptist University, Linlin is also working on another graduate degree in Sports Administration from Beijing Sports University. She dreams to put all her credentials to use and work for the FIG one day.
When asked for advice to current National Team members, Linlin responded “I’m a graduate student at Beijing Sports University and California Baptist University. In other countries, a lot of people in the sports field don’t just concentrate on sports. The knowledge they have is not only limited to sports. If we only train and don’t study, our intelligence can not reach a higher level. Studying for knowledge can be very helpful for training. For gymnasts who plan to retire, my advice is to go to University to study not only for a college degree. I think a regular college student experience is an important component of your life. Because looking back, not having that experience would be disappointing. Athletes can think about what kind of profession you want, plan your future, and your work. This can help you plan ahead for your goal and direction.”