The Price of China’s Olympic Success

I always knew being a professional athlete meant making serious sacrifices and that gymnasts don’t really have a childhood, but this like modern day torture to me. It’s nice to compete and win a title for your country but I have to wonder if it’s worth going through all this… As a parent I couldn’t let my kids go through anything like this, no matter how much I wanted them to be successful in sports, it’s just too much.











Posted in News, WTF        

Feedback (36 Comments)

  • WooParadog Posted on August 22, 2008

    This is why I dont agree to the current policy of sports here in China ..
    the average person like me can’t even afford to go to these gyms..

  • fezworth Posted on August 22, 2008

    The author makes the statement: “As a parent I couldn’t let my kids go through anything like this, no matter how much I wanted them to be successful in sports, it’s just too much.”

    Seemingly impossible to disagree with, and indirectly paints the Chinese with the ‘uncaring’ brush, as though sporting success were the only thing that the parents of these children think about. Yet the statement also represents the worst sort of cultural blindness.

    Of course you would never let your children be treated in this way. Your children will grow up happy, educated, and well-nourished, likely whether you push them to excel or not. They will never have to make a stark choice between a life of toil and the potential for a life of comfort. The comfort will come, because they live in a culture where it is easy to attain. Not so for most children in China.

    Achieving ‘comfortable middle-class life’ in China is not guaranteed, by any stretch of the imagination. There is massive competition for even the poorest universities and colleges, and after that, competition for jobs probably becomes even more cutthroat. Parents strive from the birth of their child(ren?) to give them EVERY opportunity to do well, even if it means pushing them further than the child themself wants to go.

    For parents whose children have the aptitude, achieving Olympic glory is a very desireable goal. They must know that there is no guarantee for their child, but they must also know that if they do not allow their child to be pushed, another child’s parents will.

    Don’t layer your cultural sensibilities onto others’ cultures. Your heart’s in the right place, but it doesn’t make sense.

  • Not Naive Posted on August 22, 2008

    If you think the West does not treat their gymnasts the same way you are naive. In fact Karolyi has been advocating for years to have younger gymnasts.

  • Guru Posted on August 22, 2008

    I’m no hardcore advocate for this but… would you rather they join part of our overwhelmingly obese population?

  • Paul Posted on August 22, 2008

    You don’t want to make the sacrifice. No one does. This is exactly the kind of attitude that is leading to us losing our position in the world and countries like China gaining because they are. Plus, if these kids weren’t doing that, what do you think they would be doing in China? Getting coddled by a daycare teacher? Not so much!

  • RTruth Posted on August 22, 2008

    y is this specific to the Chinese? This is just slander….


  • me Posted on August 22, 2008

    kids training. woo who !

  • erichansa Posted on August 22, 2008

    China had gained great achievement this time. The Children get what they should get.

  • SJS Posted on August 22, 2008

    Go read Jackie Chan’s biography sometime. This is neither new, nor surprising, nor terribly extreme for China.

  • Luke Posted on August 22, 2008

    Where did you get the pics? It would be nice to have some documentation.

  • Daniel Lowe Posted on August 22, 2008

    I took gymnastics, and most of those pictures seem pretty normal to me. The positions can be uncomfortable, but are very rarely painful. The only thing is that every picture has sad-looking kids in it. Big deal. I can find pictures of kids of any ethnicity crying doing just about anything.

  • Rob Posted on August 22, 2008

    Like your parents would have a choice…..

  • YouAreBlind Posted on August 22, 2008

    I thought the whole point of communism was equality? Aren’t YOU missing the point?

  • Mohamed Posted on August 22, 2008

    None of these pics look anywhere near close to modern day torture. Children cry even on the first day of school….Hard to infer anything negative from these pics.

  • been there.... Posted on August 22, 2008

    I agree with most of the other people here, this is not far from what american gymnast experince or my own personal experiences in gymnastics. These childeren are put in these facilities by their parents in hopes of a better life for the WHOLE family, not just the child. Get over yourself!

  • Dax Desai Posted on August 22, 2008

    These are about the same age as the Chinese Gold Medal gymnasts.

  • gus Posted on August 22, 2008

    i was a gymnast in the US from grades 3 through 8. that’s pretty much what gymnastics practice looks like. it’s not just china.

  • Daniel Posted on August 22, 2008

    These pictures are surprisingly tame. My sister was very big into gymnastics and trained with some pretty high level gymnasts (placing in nationals) in an affluent part of California. With the exception of the hanging boys all these pictures would have fit in perfectly at a top level Western gym. It’s one thing to complain about the Chinese Olympic infrastructure, fine, but you gotta provide some kind of shocking strictness or abuse, this just looks like normal gym workouts.

  • blah Posted on August 22, 2008

    @Not Naive: Bela Karolyi originates from “the east” as you put it, actually -i.e. from Romania 😛

  • reddit reader Posted on August 22, 2008

    This is the most unbiased comment I have read all day.

  • Fabien Posted on August 22, 2008

    I did Gymnastics for many years in France, and at every training session the kids from 4 to even 9 years old were doing, they would finish in tears. Those pictures look normal and even soft to someone familiar with the Gymnastics world. I have seen much worse (people being screamed at nastily and even hit because they do not do their movement right), and I think you could see worse or at least the same just going to the gymnasium near where you live.

  • Stupid Posted on August 22, 2008

    This is stupid. It’s probably an honor for these children to be chosen for these athletic programs. Either suffer in a gym, or suffer in poverty on a farm with little to no hope for a comfortable future. You think excellence comes without sacrifice? Anything that’s worth anything requires some sweat and tears.

  • Please! Posted on August 23, 2008

    Should children be given a choice?

  • 3rr3r Posted on August 25, 2008

    Spooky is a professional Chinese-hater.only post stigma-pic about China.
    why? who knows?

  • cb Posted on August 25, 2008

    its that or a life of constant struggle to find work.

  • KungPow_Chicken Posted on August 26, 2008

    I hope everyone of these lil commies bastards fail and come to america and open up more chinese restaurants ….cause lord knows we dont have enough of them on every street corner!!

  • John Wayne Posted on August 26, 2008

    We don’t have to train our athletes this way because we are motivated by our own self interests, ie, fame fortune and personal accomplishment with a little bit of American patriotism mixed in. The Chinese are working for their “great leader” and for the good of the oscialist machine. They will be trained like dogs and if they fail they will be treated like dogs. This is what makes America great, we do not have to be inhumane get results. If only the America haters, Liberals and Socialists in this country would understand this concept. Instead we glorify the Chinese in the Olympic coverage than act stunned when we find out what really goes on.

  • vinnie Posted on August 26, 2008

    give children a choice? um… yeah, great idea… if my 14 year old were given the choice, he would choose to sit on his butt all day long and play video games. Children are children because they are young, hence, not educated in what may or may not be the best choices for them… Parents are parents because they have been there and can guide (read: choose for them) the children in what is in they’re best interests.

  • The Janitor Posted on August 26, 2008

    Seeing crap like this makes me think that once this place burns up or blows up the Universe will be better off! and I don’t give a damn what the rest of you holier than thou think too.

  • w Posted on August 27, 2008

    Chinese gym camp is even better than boarding school Id send my brat there where do I sign up?

  • CHUNK Posted on August 27, 2008


  • H Posted on August 28, 2008

    I just wanted to reply to all those who have said, essentially, that parents send their children into gymnastics training because otherwise they would all have to live in poverty, and that this is the children’s only hope for a better life.

    Prospective parents, regardless of nationality, should think responsibly. Is birth control illegal in China? I don’t think so. If the only way you can afford to provide a decent life for your kids is to force them to earn it themselves by engaging in intensive training from a young age, DON’T HAVE KIDS. If you can afford to support your kids but push them to train intensively in a sport they don’t really enjoy because you would like the ego boost of having a famous kid, then find a better way of dealing with your own self-esteem issues. If your kid really enjoys their sport and isn’t suffering serious physical harm from engaging in it, then let them keep it up!

  • zaklady bukmacherskie Posted on August 29, 2008

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  • marcio Posted on September 1, 2008

    USA lose, that´s it. Don´t try to justificate it. YOU LOSE GUYS, HAHAHAHA

  • Stacey Posted on September 7, 2008

    marcio –

    Maybe before you insult Americans, you should work on your English.

    “Justificate”? There’s no such word, honey.

    USA lost, and your country probably didn’t place, did it?

  • Stacey Posted on September 7, 2008

    I think what the author was trying to say is that the children in China aren’t even given a choice. At least in [most] other Western countries, you’re given a choice as to whether or not you want to do something like gymnastics. Not to mention the tremendous pressure put on these children, i.e. the fact that their entire future is based upon whether or not they can do gymnastics.