Pro basketball in China is hot with former NBA superstars Stephon Marbury, Gilbert Arenas and Tracy McGrady upgrading the level of competition and credibility. But Chinese basketball is lagging. After finishing eighth at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China failed to win a single game at the London Games this summer, thanks largely to the absence of Yao Ming, who had retired because of injuries.

How can China develop enough homegrown talent to compete internationally and also allow its domestic league to rely less on imports? Yao has an interesting idea that goes against the grain of traditional Chinese wisdom: Schools and parents need to give kids a break from the full-court press of academics.

"We just need to give them more time to play," Yao told the Wall Street Journal. "I'm not saying education is not important, but we have to have balance. ... More and more people are starting to realize that education is not only about homework and examinations. Physical education is important, too."

Given China's population, the world's largest at nearly 1.4 billion, there is an abundant talent pool to be tapped for hoops success. But the millions of Chinese kids who play basketball aren't being given enough of an opportunity to develop their skills at the highest level because of the cultural importance placed on schoolwork, according to Yao.

Yao is hopeful that the NBA success of Jeremy Lin, who is Taiwanese-American but has a big following in China, can help spread the message that hitting the books and the basketball court aren't mutually exclusive.

"He proved that it's not necessary to give up education to become a great athlete," Yao told the Journal.

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To say that Jalyessa Walker "broke" the world record for most consecutive backflips might be shortchanging her just a little bit. "Destroyed" or "pulverized" might be more like it.

Walker needed 36 flips to top the old mark.

She nailed 49 and was ready to keep going.

"I wish I didn't run out of room so I could have done 50," Walker told the El Paso Times. "As soon as I hit the concrete, I was starting to get tired and scared because I didn't want to fall."

Walker was on familiar ground for her performance. A former cheerleader at University of Texas at El Paso, Walker went for the record at halftime of the UTEP-Rice football game and covered the length of the field.

The previous record of 35 was set in October by 16-year-old high school cheerleader Miranda Ferguson, also of Texas.

Walker, a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army, said she only had a month to train. After graduating UTEP in the spring, she went to Fort Lee, Va., for the Basic Officer Leadership Course, which kept her from practicing.

"I really had to work on my cardio because my legs would get tired," she told the Times.

Walker's record won't become official until the Guinness authorities sign off, but with video documentation and more than 20,000 eyewitnesses, that seems to be just a formality.

Walker, who started gymnastics when she was 4, was simple and direct when explaining why she went for the record: "I like challenges."

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NFL, Pets

A recent trip to the Nova Scotia coast should pay off big time for fisherman Marc Towers.

After wrestling with a humongous Bluefin tuna for two hours, Towers reeled in a fish that could sell for upwards of $30,000 in Japan.

According to the Daily Mail, the fish weighs 1,000 pounds and can be converted into 20,000 pieces of sushi.

Neil Cooke, who accompanied the 30-year-old Towers on the fishing excursion, described the scene on the boat.

"All of a sudden it broke the surface and everyone said, 'It's a monster!'" Cooke told the Daily Mail.

As big as Towers' haul was, it it shy of the all-time record for a Bluefin tuna catch. In 1979 Ken Fraser, also fishing off the coast of Nova Scotia, landed a 1,500-pound fish.

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