Chi Cheng, ‘71 Kinesiology
Considered one of the greatest female Asian athletes of the 20th century, Chi Cheng, ‘71 Kinesiology, broke track and field world records and received numerous awards, including a bronze medal in the 1968 Olympics. Although she has retired her running shoes, Chi continues to work tirelessly in promoting a healthy, active lifestyle in her home country of Taiwan.
Through the Hope Foundation, which she co-founded and serves as the chairwoman, Chi encourages people to walk 10,000 steps a day to stay healthy, save energy and to reduce each person’s carbon footprint. “We have a slogan that says, ‘10,000 steps a day keeps the doctor away’ – just like an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” she says.
As a former athlete and kinesiology major, Chi understands the value of health and taking care of one’s body. “Health is more important than wealth,” she says. “The most wealthy people in Taiwan cannot buy back the life of their beloved ones or their own lives.”
Chi founded the Hope Foundation in 1986, after she had appeared in a commercial for Quaker Oaks and guest starred in a Hong Kong movie called “Flying Antelope.” Demonstrating her commitment to athletics, she donated all the money she earned from those jobs – about $2.4 million – to promote sports in Taiwan.
“Never in my mind did I think to keep the money,” Chi says. “The logic was simple: Without sports, I wouldn’t have been invited to do the commercial or guest star in the movie. That’s how the Hope Foundation started.”
Since the organization began encouraging people to walk, Chi has partnered with numerous elected officials, celebrities, public figures and the media to host high-profile events across the country. In 2006, Taiwan’s then premier, Su Tseng-Chang, declared Nov. 11 to be the national day of walking.
“For me,” she says, “the happiest moments is when I walk in the streets and people say to me, ‘Ms. Chi, 10,000 steps a day keeps the doctor away.’”
When she was a student athlete at Cal Poly Pomona, Chi lived the life lessons of discipline, sacrifice and time management. With a demanding training schedule and the rigors of college coursework, she had to give up many of the fun aspects of college life -- watching movies, going to parties and traveling.
Her dedication certainly paid off. She tied or broke 10 world records in track and field, won a bronze medal in the 80-meter hurdles at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and was named the Associated Press World Athlete of the Year in 1971. She set five track and field records at the university in 1971 – 100 meter, 100 meter hurdles, 200 meter, 400 meter and long jump –and continues to hold those records today. When she graduated from Cal Poly Pomona in 1971, she was named an outstanding scholar in the College of Letters, Arts & Social Sciences.
Today, when she advises young athletes, she tells them that it is possible to be both an outstanding athlete and an outstanding student.
“As a student athlete, you have to be very disciplined and you acquire very good habits for the rest of your life,” she says. “If a student can overcome the pain, ache, torture and pressures of training, then I don’t think there are any obstacles in life that can’t be overcome.”
Those lessons aren’t reserved for elite athletes either, she says. Everyone should take any opportunity to join a sports team, train and exercise. “It’s really a treasure and a life experience,” she says.
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