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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By Marc Lawrence, — It’s the fastest growing sport in the world. Last September in Beijing, in the same venue where 15 years earlier Michael Phelps flip-turned to immortality, a few hundred Chinese officials and dignitaries gathered to assess a sport.

An American creation. On this night, the Beijing National Aquatics Center – known casually as the Water Cube – was not hosting a swimming event. Nor an Olympic event.

They were watching a pickleball exhibition. If pickleball is in the throes of taking over America, then China is on the cusp of – no exaggeration – taking over pickleball.

“The top sports officials in China have pledged to me,” says Seymour Rifkind, a Chicago-based ambassador of the sport who organized the exhibition, “that within five years, they expect to have 10,000 courts and 100 million players.”

Pickleball could easily become China’s next avenue of Olympic dominion. “China wants to lead the world in pickleball,” says Rifkind, “and they have the means to do it.”

“The Chinese leadership embraces pickleball for two primary reasons,” says Rifkind. “First, it sees it as a healthy use of leisure time for its people. Second, it sees it as the latest means, via sport, to demonstrate that its form of government is the best in the world. Look what China has done in badminton, in table tennis, in gymnastics.”

Then there’s China’s “can do ASAP” approach, particularly when it comes to sports.

If China makes good on its promise to have 100 million Chinese dinking and dashing in five years, the merchandising will tilt toward the Far East. So, too, may pickleball’s Olympic movement.

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