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4-yo swims with beluga whale, latest extreme feat by child athlete

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Published on Jul 21, 2015

SHOTLIST
1. Various shots of Huang Yan preparing to swim with Beluga whale in aquarium
2. Huang Yan standing in front of whale by swimming pool, stroking it
3. Close-up of whale
4. Boy's grandmother shouting towards him from stand
5. Trainer putting Huang Yan into pool next to whale
6. Pan from whale to Huang Yan in pool, zoom out to wide of same
7. Whale blowing out water
8. Trainer instructing whale to go under water, then boy goes under water
9. Boy giving whale a kiss under water
10. Boy diving under water, whale glancing over at him
11. SOUNDBITE (Mandarin) Huang Yan, 4 year old boy that is training to swim with whale:
"Today has been a pretty good day."
12. Trainer standing by pool, whale swimming away
13. SOUNDBITE (Mandarin) Zhong Tao, Whale and Dolphin Trainer, Polar Ocean World Aquarium:
"After a while of contact, the whale does get used to new people. But if a stranger just wanted to touch and kiss the whale, that wouldn't work. After spending time - we spent a year or so training him - they are fine together. But it started slowly, they needed to adjust."
14. Boy riding on the back of whale, falling off, then swimming back alongside whale
15. SOUNDBITE (Mandarin) Jing Xueying, Huang Yan's Grandmother:
"At first he was scared. After he was scared they played together a few times. In the end he and Xiao Qiang played a little and he got over his fear and now they're good friends."
16. Trainer placing boy on the back of whale again, boy riding on whale
17. Boy on back of whale, waving
18. Boy and whale next to eachother on side of pool, boy kisses whale
STORYLINE:
The 4-year-old boy took a breath, ducked underwater and planted a kiss on the huge whale beside him.
A trainer then lifted Huang Yan onto the back of the beluga whale, which is about 30 times his size, and the little boy sat astride the animal's back as it glided smoothly just under the surface of the water.
"Today was a good day," Huang Yan said after swimming with Xiao Qiang the whale.
The boy's feat is the latest example in China of a bizarre athletic accomplishment involving a child.
With the Beijing Olympics less than 10 months away, pint-sized athletes are grabbing the spotlight with stunts that some criticise as unsafe or unhealthy, raising questions as to whether they are being pushed by attention-seeking adults.
"They played together a few times. In the end he and Xiao Qiang played a little and he got over his fear and now they're good friends," 55-year-old Jing Xueying said while watching Huang Yan, who sports a buzz cut with one tuft of hair at the front sprouting straight out.
Huang Yan, who goes by the nickname Yang Yang, has been going to the Polar Ocean World Aquarium in his hometown of Qingdao, an eastern Chinese coastal city, for more than four months to swim with Xiao Qiang.
He began swimming before he was even a year old and fell in love with the whale after seeing him perform in a show at the aquarium.
Beluga whales look like dolphins but have flat noses and a big forehead.
Xiao Qiang, who is 6 years old, is 3 metres (nearly 10 feet) long and weighs 450 kilograms (1,000 pounds).
Jing said she approached aquarium officials about letting her grandson swim with the beluga whale after he came home from an aquarium visit asking if he could "go and play with Xiao Qiang."
At first, officials were sceptical because they were afraid for the boy's safety, said Mu Peng, director of the aquarium's publicity department.
His grandmother isn't worried about safety, even though the whale's trainer said belugas can attack when they get angry.
It's hard to say whether Huang Yan knows what all the fuss is about.
southern island province of Hainan to Beijing in 55 days, her father trailing behind her on a motor scooter.


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