"I am not expecting Ding to become a celebrity. I just want him to be healthy and happy," said Yu Jianxiu, Ding's mother.
Yu used to worry about Ding because as a small boy he seemed shy and introverted. "When he was a little boy, he seldom went out because he looked different from the other children. But after he started playing volleyball, he livened up. He likes to speak Hangzhou dialect to amuse me and surprise his friends," said Yu with a smile.
Ding Hui (R) and teammate Bian Hongmin were both recently recruited into the national volleyball team.
Ding is very popular among his teammates. "He's the joker in the squad," said Wang Hebing, the head coach of Zhejiang Volleyball team where Ding plays his league volleyball. "He was a little shy at first but he soon became a favorite with the other players."
"He's also a great singer and dancer and he brings more passion to the game than the other players."
Ding's father returned to South Africa before he was born. They sometimes talk on the telephone but have never met each other, according to his mother. "Ding says he plans to visit Africa when he retires from the game."
"Ding needs to play boldly and aggressively," said Wang Hebing, who has been named assistant coach of the national team. "I hope he can seize this opportunity and develop his career."
Name: Ding Hui
Date of Birth: June 1989
Attacking Height: 300cm
Blocking Height: 290cm
Ding started playing volleyball at ten. He was recruited to the provincial youth team in 2003 and the national under-19 team in 2007.
Chinese athletes of foreign origins
Hua Alex Tian was born on Oct. 25, 1989 to English mother Sarah Noble and Chinese father Hua Shan. He went to Eton College in 2004. The 18-year-old was the first Chinese event rider at the Olympics and one of the youngest riders to take part in the Beijing Games.
Hua Ming, his younger brother is a talented cricket player and will represent China in next year's Asian Games in Guangzhou.
(China.org.cn by Huang Shan, April 15, 2009)