Yao to resume training, visits NASCAR too

by Paul Raymond | Posted on Monday, May 26th, 2008

Yao MingIt’s been a busy couple days for Houston Rockets center Yao Ming, as he resumes training, serves on a NASCAR pit crew, and worries about his family and country after another earthquake. While I’m not really able to talk about the feelings and emotions of what Ming may be going through with China’s situation, I can talk about his rehab and NASCAR visit. Those are two topics, I know, so let’s go.

First, his rehab. Yao began to run last week and reports say that he’s pretty much pain free now. So far, so good, doesn’t seem like that surgically repaired foot is giving him any problems, yet. Notice I said he’s running, no basketball related activities have really started yet other then shooting around. He won’t begin any scrimmaging for another couple weeks, but Yao is still pretty optimistic about being ready for the Olympics. “I don’t want to push that too much because we need to do that in a safe way, but the Olympics are only 70-some days to go,” Yao said. Yao is even expected to play in a couple exhibition games before China opens against the United States on August 10th. On an China Olympics team side note – Yi Jianlian will not be training with the countries national team due to injury.

Now to a fun note about Yao. Yao and two-time Olympic gold medalist Steven Lopez were honorary pit crew members for Kyle Petty’s #45 Coca-Cola team at Sunday’s NASCAR Coca-Cola 600 in Concord, NC. Ming even got to assist in a simulated pit stop before the race. “They showed me how to change a tire and refuel a car in what, 12 seconds? That’s a little different when you change your own tire. I never saw that.” Yao and Lopez were there participating in a Coca-Cola promotion that unveiled collectible cans bearing the company logo in different languages. Obviously because of the Olympics.

Yao even shot hoops with a few of the NASCAR drivers, including Petty, Jeff Burton, Bobby Labonte and Michael Waltrip. “While I probably didn’t give Yao much of a challenge at the hoop,” Burton said, “I’d like to see how he’d fare swapping paint with me at 200 mph on the track. Unfortunately, I don’t think he’ll fit into a stock car.” Waltrip was the tallest of the group, reaching Yao’s shoulder, while Burton barely got to his elbow. There was a bunch of good natured fun going on that day. “Yao and Steven (Lopez) may not be the quickest tire changers in the garage, but they were great sports and everyone had a lot of fun,” Petty said. “Actually, with Yao’s reach, he might be able to perform some of the crew duties without ever going over the wall.”

It’s good to see Yao get in a little fun, rumor has it the first thing he does when waking up every day is check for the latest earthquake news. With the earthquake, rehab, and Olympics any type of fun to clear that mind of his, is a god thing!

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