Triumphant, Yang continued to play baseball but, relishing his newly developed speed, he turned also to track and field. He ran in the all-county meet and finished a respectable third in the 100 meters. He began to practice the broad jump and the high jump. In the high jump he did well at first, but then for a long time he plateaued at 5 feet.
"Jump 5 feet and jump and jump and jump again. But one day, all of sudden, I jump 5 feet 8 or 9. And then the all-county track meet again, and I jump 6 feet! And then I compete in the nationals of Formosa. And I won! The following year I competed in both the high jump and the broad jump in the nationals, and I won the broad jump and finished third in the high jump.
"The next year, 1954, was the Asian Games. I really wanted to go. I quit playing baseball and concentrated on track. In the final tryouts I finished second in the broad jump and second in the high jump. I was nervous. In the high jump I had the same height as the winner, but I missed more times and I was placed second. They were taking 21 athletes for track and field, and they said they would announce the team over the radio. I was in the hotel packing—either go home or report to training headquarters. And they call the names over the radio, one by one. The athletes who made it began jumping around the room. I began to get sad. I faced to the wall. I think I was in tears. Here came 17 and 18. Then the man who beat me in the high jump—same height, but I was second—he was No. 19. I got so mad. I was beaten out by so little. Also, I said to myself, I can do the broad jump, too. I was ready to quit and go back to the baseball. Then 20 came. Not me. I was ready to carry my luggage out, get taxi and get train and go home. And then 21, they call my name. The last one. I just couldn't believe it. I was in tears even more.
"But I was still mad—I still want to go home. I got a taxi and went to the station, but in the waiting room I thought and I decided, I'm going to report. So I went to the training camp."
And there, in the training camp, the world's best decathlon man was created—accidentally. The field-event men like Yang, who was to compete in the broad jump and high jump, trained on the same field with the track men, the runners. Yang's curiosity and competitive drive moved him to experiment with other events, hitherto strange to him. He set up a bicycle and used it as an impromptu hurdle. He read a Japanese book on hurdling—Yang speaks and reads Japanese fluently because of his schooling under the Japanese occupation—and studied its illustrations. "I tried to bring the whole thing together in my mind," he said, but his coach became irritated because Yang was not concentrating on his jumping. Yang said, "I told him, 'I just can't jump every day. If I practice hurdling today, maybe tomorrow I can jump more higher.' And I did. I jumped 2 or 3 inches higher."
At the end of each week the squad underwent trials. Yang said, "One week I ask the coach, 'Can I run the hurdles?' He said, 'Are you kidding?' I said, 'No, I'm not kidding. I'd like to run.' He said, 'O.K., after you broad-jump and high-jump.' So I jumped and jumped. And then I ran the hurdles. I beat them all! They were all about 16.2 seconds, and I did 16 flat. I was surprised that everybody was so happy, because the three guys I beat were so mad. I felt, oh, my fault. I shouldn't do that. But I practice and finally I run 15.7, equal to the national record. And I practice the javelin. I just threw it wild at first, but in three weeks I beat him, the javelin thrower. So the coach said, 'I like to see you throw again next week.' Then I did the discus and the shotput. And then, three weeks before we leave for Manila for the Asian Games, the coach said, 'How'd you like to try decathlon?'
"I was so surprised. I really didn't feel like it. The two decathlon boys, when we had trials, they had to do two days. I used to laugh at them. And then I said to myself, oh, I shouldn't laugh. I remembered my principal. And then I felt sorry for them. So when they asked me about the decathlon, I said, oh no, I don't like the pole vault and I don't like to run 1,500 meters. I don't mind 100 or 400 meters, but not 1,500 meters.
"They ask me again. Every meal. At breakfast, ask me. Lunch, ask me. Dinner, ask me. Before we go to bed, ask me. For three days. Then I talked to one athlete about what I should do. He said, 'You. You run 1,500 meters, not me.' But another guy said, 'Hey, if you compete in the decathlon you have a chance to do well in the Asian Games. You have a good chance to place in the decathlon, but not in the broad jump or high jump. Think about it.' He was old, about 30—like my age now. He was a teacher. He knows something. So the next day at breakfast, before the coach had a chance to ask me, I say to him, 'Yes, Coach. I'm going to compete in the decathlon.'
"So I practice. Try the pole vault. I never pole-vaulted in my life. They say, 'Now, you hold the pole like this, stick it in the box, hang on to it and jump.' God! I was scared. They put the bar at two meters, about 6 feet 6.1 didn't make it. I tried again, and finally I did about 7½ feet.
"Then that week at our trials I did the decathlon. I scored 5,300 points. Oh, it was hard. I never ran 1,500 meters in my life, and everybody standing around the track pushing me on: go, go, go. My first decathlon. Right after it I was so sick I had to stay in bed two days. They all went out, but I went to bed all weekend. It was so funny. I couldn't eat. I was ready to quit. But they had the application in for me for the Asian Games, so finally we went to Manila."