I-6: Q - Oh Hai - CycleBlaze

October 30, 2019

I-6: Q

I don't care that it doesn't have rear pockets. I'm pretty sure this leftover too large event jersey that Mr. Q gave me is my new favorite long sleeved shirt.
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I didn't realize Star Trek the Next Generation began broadcasting in 1987 but a quick trip to Wikipedia to look up information about the character "Q" tells me this is so. I sometimes doubt that Mr. Q's English name has any relationship to Star Trek but other times, not so much. Sure, it starts with the letter "Q" and it's kind of hard for English speakers to pronounce, and the whole time I've known him he's been a friendly version of the caricature of the inscrutably wise little old Asian man, but the timeline of Star Trek being popular roughly matches the timeline of when he would have started doing all kinds of international things and it could be the case; there's certainly plenty of other people with strange English names who got them via peculiar circumstances.

(Given that my Chinese name was based off my inability to correctly pronounce the word "American" and is roughly equivalent to what you might get as Your Stripper Name in a Facebook game, I have no right to say anything to anyone about their unusual English name.)

I stopped going to races a while ago and haven't seen Mr. Q in years. In fact, even if I still went to races, I think he's finally retired so I wouldn't be seeing him anyways. If I wasn't having the issues with my laptop, upon finding out that he lives in Fuzhou (and not Xiamen like I thought) I probably would have come in to Fuzhou just to visit him. Since I am having issues with my laptop, and Lenovo has a Customer Care center here, visiting him is just another one of the things while I'm here.

The stunningly gorgeous frankenbike Mr. Q came to meet me on
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I met Mr. Q in August 2006 at a dinner about two months before the inaugural Tour of Hainan. The autumn of 2007 and again in 2008, we spent a few months as coworkers in the pre-race services department of the 2nd and 3rd Tours. I've run into him at the Tour of Qinghai Lake (where he quipped upon my return from the Scariest Rural Hospital Imaginable: "the Organizing Committee gives everyone one opportunity to turn blue and pass out from lack of oxygen, after which they are no longer invited back. You do realize this means you've used your chance?"), at the event 10 years ago in Wuyishan, at an event in Shenzhen. If it's cycling related and in Asia, Mr. Q is (or used to be) everywhere.

Take a step back to June 2006. The bike club in Haikou announced that there would be a regularly scheduled set of training classes instead of the usual unscheduled evening rides,  and I showed up. Not because I had any particular interest in training classes but because they were at the same time as my usual unscheduled evening rides.

The person in charge of the class was a man named "Coach". Coach didn't have a first name or a last name. He only had a title. Coach was more than a little crazy and more than a little over serious about his scheduled expectations of casual amateurs. Coach—as I would find out in dribs and drabs that got me to keep coming back to class long after I really didn't want to because I was so tired and everything hurt—was also a former professional athlete, had won all sorts of interesting accolades, and had even competed at the Olympics. Coach wasn't just some gym teacher my friends were being polite to by calling him "coach". He was actually a real coach.

Q's willingness to lock THIS bike with THAT lock and only that lock tells me that I really need to stop being so worried someone is going to take my bike.
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There were a couple of people in our class that Coach thought had unusual amounts of promise for casual amateurs. None of them managed to attend all the training sessions though; few people besides me even attempted. Partly because I was a student at the time; partly because I'm stubborn as a mule; and partly because I wasn't going to let an opportunity like this pass me up. Not that I was entirely certain what the opportunity was; just that it seemed like something I shouldn't be missing out on.

In later years, when Coach was unhappy with his real athletes (many of whom went on to represent China at various international events including the Olympics) he would shame them with stories of his "fat crippled American". Because, you know, if I was able to push myself until I literally couldn't move, then the elite athletes who had been training their entire lives really ought to be trying harder.

When preparations started for the Tour of Hainan, a couple of different people in the bike club would have, at various times and for various reasons, mentioned me and my existence to Mr. Q (by then a UCI Commissaire and the race's technical consultant) but whatever they would have said about me, nice, not nice, or indifferent, wouldn't have mattered compared to Coach's opinion of me, because twenty years earlier, Mr. Q had been Coach's coach.

Mike and I visiting Coach at work at the Laoshan Velodrome in Beijing in January 2011. There was no one handy to take a photo so we used the awards podium to prop up the camera. (As you can see from the picture, I don't do well in cold temperatures.)
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The first year of the Tour, it was a continental event. There were a few people and teams from places like Europe and Russia but not many; I'm pretty sure the South African National Cycling Team was there; maybe a few Australians. But it wasn't a big deal international event yet. Probably half of the competitors were Chinese riders with Chinese domestic teams.

There weren't a lot of bilingual people around the province who knew anything at all about biking as a sport. Those people who did know something, who mostly came to Hainan from Beijing specifically to work at the event, they were important and had important people things to do. 

The assigned translators and liaisons were entirely English majors from the local university. They might have had okay—or even really good—language skills but they didn't have any topical knowledge.

And then there was me.

Asking a week and change before the Tour started "do you think I could maybe volunteer?"

And Q was one of the people who went: "Volunteer? Hell no, you can't volunteer. We're going to pay you!"

Which is how, as these things come to pass, I eventually became a professional translator.

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Catherine HastingsWhat a great story!!
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4 years ago