One of China’s most celebrated swimming coaches died today, as Xu Guoyi succumbed to brain cancer. The 50-year-old had most recently been the coach of 2012 Olympic champion Ye Shiwen and 2016 Olympic silver medalist Xu Jiayu.
Guoyi was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor in 2015. We reported at the time that Xu underwent surgery after doctors detected malignant glioma in his brain. Xu’s glioma was considered a grade IV, which is the most serious case of brain tumors.
Xu reportedly kept his illness from his swimmers, such as Ye Shiwen, heading into the 2016 Olympic Games.
The Chinese Swimming Association issued a statement thanking Xu for his extraordinary contributions to the country’s swimming success, “Coach Xu Guoyi has made significant contributions to the development of Chinese swimming. His success will be the ever-lasting monument of the country’s swimming industry.”
Xu once said, “My life is always about swimming. I love what I do and there is no way for me to stay away from the pool.” (CGTN)
Xu Jiayu published a heartfelt letter to his coach on the Chinese app, Weibo, today:
“Dear coach, I remember all your expectations for me. When I won it again (men’s 100-meter backstroke gold) in Gwangju, you told me I should dream big because Tokyo is the stage for me. RIP, I promise I will bring that gold medal back home (from Tokyo) next summer for you. I will never forget what you did for me.
Ye Shiwen followed suit:
“I always thought one day a miracle would happen and bring you back to health and back to us. You brought me up, put me in that stage for top honor and was always there for every big moment in my life. You taught me how to stay strong, focus on what we do and never give up. You made every of us a better person. I know you won’t be there to protect me anymore but you will always be the beacon in my heart, guiding me through both light and darkness. Goodbye Daddy Xu, my love, respect and thoughts are always with you.