A top sports center in Central China has continued to pay the salary of badminton star-turned-coach Huang Sui (pic left 1) despite the fact she has not shown up for work since early 2009.
Huang, 31, was appointed deputy director of Hunan Provincial Badminton Center in 2008, a year after she dropped out of the national team and retired from the game.
However, her boss and former coach Tang Hui said she went missing soon after, only to reappear this month at a tournament in Sydney, representing Australia.
"Because she was an accomplished player, we have treated the matter with great prudence," Tang said.
Huang was put in charge of youth training, yet she was often on leave. Her boss said the last time she was seen at the center was at her annual performance assessment three years ago.
The center posted a notice in the local Xiaoxiang Morning Post last month looking for information about her whereabouts. When they received no response, she was officially dismissed, although the center still pays her, according to Tang.
He said her salary for April was deposited on Sunday, although he declined to reveal the amount.
The player's sudden reappearance at an international tournament, along with her new nationality, has left many people perplexed, including her former mentor, Tang.
On Wednesday, Huang partnered Tang Hetian at a women's doubles match at the Sydney Badminton Open. The duo represented Australia, but lost to world No 9 pair Chien Yu-chin and Cheng Wen-hsing from Chinese Taipei.
After the match, Huang told badminton website Badzine that she did not know what her future career plans are.
Speaking in Chinese, she said she was still getting used to a left-handed partner and responded warmly when the Badzine interviewer said that a lot of people were happy to see her back on the court.
Tang Hui said he knew nothing about Huang moving to Sydney with her husband, 42-year-old Wang Xiaojun, a real estate developer from Zhuzhou, Hunan. The couple has a 4-year-old son.
"Huang had no financial problems, so she is unlikely to have gone abroad for money," he said, before going on to describe his old student as competitive, very demanding of herself, and a strong personality.
"If she prefers a different lifestyle and has made personal choices, we would be open to hear her explanation," he added.
As the player's ties with the center are still unresolved, however, it remains a mystery how she was able to represent Australia at the Sydney event, which ran from April 3 to 8.
According to the Badminton World Federation's rules, a foreign national can only represent a country if he or she holds a passport for that country for three years or has represented that country within the past three years.
Calls to the Chinese Badminton Association in Beijing and e-mails to the Badminton World Federation in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, went unanswered on Sunday.
Huang, who is from Anhua county in Hunan, joined the Chinese national team at the age of 16 and went on to win numerous tournaments, including the Japan Open, the world championships and six All-England titles.
In 2007, with the Beijing Olympics approaching, she announced that she planned to retire, as her father was in critical condition due to lung cancer.
Huang's coaches attempted to persuade her to stay on and win an Olympic medal, but she opted to withdraw from the team a few months later. Her father died in December 2007.