BY PIERRE LAMARCHE
We had heard about Lan Yao-Gallop and the excellent work she accomplished at the University of Alberta Saville Community Sports Centre. With tennis manager Russ Sluchinski, Lan has succeeded in making the Edmonton Facility into a Tennis Canada Gold Designated training center.
We interviewed Lan to find out how a girl from Shanghai, population 26,000,000, ended up in Edmonton, population 1,000,000 and became one of Canada’s top coaches.
Shanghai: The start of the journey
When Lan was 8 years old, in grade 2, a tennis recruiter came to her school and selected 30 athletes who could eventually represent Shanghai in the National Chinese Games, an Olympic type of competition, taking place every four years. These competitions were important as funding for the next four years was dependent on team performances. This initial summer program started with the 30 aspiring players who played every day from 3pm to 6pm on clay courts in 35 degree heat.
The program’s difficulty was reflected through the attrition of players:
15 after the 1st week, five more after the 2nd week and finally, only three candidates were left – Lan included.
As a result of her selection, she participated in a group of 6-8 children from 3:30-6pm daily for four years. At the age of 12, she won the Shanghai City Championships U12 and graduated to the City’s team. At 13 years old, she received a salary similar to her parents. She moved to the Sports Institute for ten years, where she lived, worked and studied. Her job was tennis training Monday through Friday from
8am -11am and 2pm – 6pm, followed by a study period at night.
One Lan’s classmates was Yao Ming, the present Chinese basketball president and former player of the Shanghai Sharks before becoming a superstar with the Houston Rockets of the NBA.
Ten years into the system, Lan, at the age of 22, felt that maybe she had bypassed her opportunity at a professional career given the success of so many younger players on the WTA tour. – She decided on a new life in Canada.
Edmonton: Start of the Canadian adventure
At the invitation of her great uncle, Lan went to Edmonton to study languages. After a few months into her language course, Lan had a chance to play tennis at the Royal Glenora Club where she met Mr. Gary Fletcher, the tennis director who immediately saw Lan’s potential as a coach.
She then went on to work at the Royal Glenora Club, where she headed the junior program. In 2012, Bob Brett, Canada’s National Coach, saw her potential and offered her a position at Toronto’s regional training centre. There she worked with US open champ Bianca Andreescu: “Bianca is a good kid who was fun to coach, fearless player, down to earth and easy-going.”
After a two-year stint in Toronto, she pursued her career at the Saville Center, where she helped build a strong high performance junior program. Lan continued her development as a coach by receiving her level 4 Tennis Canada certification while participating in Tennis Canada Coach Mentor Program.
Starting in 2014, she became a Tennis Canada Touring Coach, where she has led Canadian National squads on international tours. Leyla Fernandez was included on these teams: “Leyla has a great heart, a great attitude and has unbelievable fight in her.”
Most recently, Lan has travelled with some of Canada’s future stars, whereas as Captain, she led the team to 5th place in the Billie Jean King Junior competition.
Lan was very impressed with the future potential of her team:
Anabelle Xu: “Very disciplined, hardworking girl, always looking for information, and great tennis understanding”
Kayla Cross is “a very talented athlete, a great fighter, unbelievable footwork, anticipation and court positioning, and she comes from a family who supports her and understands the sports culture.”
Vicky Mboko “is a work in progress, with lots of hype around her, but she is really passionate to be the best in the world one day. She is a fun girl who has world-class power while growing into learning how to be a professional”
lop, China’s loss – Canada’s gain. Go Canada.