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Chinese Sports School: Training or Torture?

“Sport is a serious business at the Shichahai School, which is one of more than 300 elite, and controversial, government-funded academies devoted to training the next generation of Chinese athletes”, writes Telegraph in a report published in 2008, just before the Beijing Olympics.

Training for sports starts at a young age in China. Most were scouted at the tender age of six and sent to special sports schools along with thousands of others who showed promise. The majority don't make the grade but for those that remain, the pressure to win is intense.

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Some 600 children aged between six and 18, from all over China, board full-time at the Shichahai Sports School. Six days a week, they study in the mornings and train for four hours in the afternoon. Parents are allowed to see their offspring only at the weekends, but most are willing to put up with the separation in the hope of reaping the lavish rewards won by Olympic champions. Parents of promising athletes who are poor are often given a home in their hometowns by the local sports bureau. Others just want a decent education for their children.

Shichahai has played a major role in producing top athletes for the country who go on to win gold medals in Olympics. But for all its success, the school, and the system it represents, has been accused of pushing its young charges too hard, and even of abusing them. On a visit to Shichahai in 2005, Britain's four-time Olympic rowing champion Sir Matthew Pinsent said he saw a seven-year-old girl crying while being made to do handstands, and a boy with marks on his back.

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Six-year olds haul their heads above the bar repeatedly - their faces show the strain but they do not utter a sound. Often the coaches are strict and un-smiling. Some coaches are accused of regularly beating the students. In one case, the Liaoning Anshan Athletics School was found to be doping pupils as young as 15 with the hormones erythropoietin (EPO) and testosterone.

Wu Yigang, a professor at Shanghai University, told the Washington Post, “Some schools stress only sports and can be viewed as little more than athlete-producing assembly lines. They often require six hours of training or more a day. Many Chinese athletes have devoted so much of their time to training they can’t read beyond the fifth grade level.”

When these kids leave athletic schools, they can't do anything because they have no skills. Local sports commissions sometimes provide jobs, but in the end, many become factory workers. Some athletes are promised job as policemen when they retire, but these promises are often broken.

China Sports Daily estimates that 80 percent of China’s retired athletes suffer from unemployment, poverty or chronic health problems resulting from overtraining.

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Source: Telegraph, Factsanddetails, Pictures: Getty Images via Avaxnews

26 comments:

  1. too much pressure... yes, the eraser is precious, but choosing the "good" child and the "bad" child is not a good way of teaching children to bee self assured. Too much competition.

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  2. good way of teaching children to bee self assured.

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    1. I’m am fascinated by your article on Chinese sports schools; training or torture, therefore I wished to impose my views on your article as I believe some of your points can be amended.

      In your article, you have made an excellent discovery of a statistic regarding that ‘80% of China's retired athletes suffer from unemployment, poverty and chronic health problems resulting from overtraining.’ Reading your article has made me realize and question the Governments motives behind the sports schools. Why does China feel so strongly about overtraining children and succeeding in the Olympics? I understand that they want to show power and strength but is it really necessary to abuse them to achieve that? As stated in your article, ‘most recruited children are cut resulting in huge unemployment.’ I feel strongly that that is unfair. Children shouldn't be recruited in the first place, making their dreams come true only years later to be unemployed and unable to read past 5th grade level. Due to overtraining, retired athletes often suffer from chronic health illnesses. This infers that coaches are abusing and over working children.

      However, I have also thought about benefits that this whole sports system can accomplish. This school is actually a private academy, and yes they undertake early specialization but at what amount? And is it really bad? Think about it, as some of the parents are poor do they want their children to either work 14hrs in a factory, or have a real chance to show nationalism, work less hours, do less hard work and for better money than the factory. These days the Olympic program provides opportunities for these athletes to have university education where otherwise they wouldn't have a chance, they would be stuck in a class system of farming or factory work.


      In addition, in your article, you stated that ‘most children were scouted at the tender age of six and sent to special sports schools along with thousands of others who showed promise.’ If they are spending their whole lives pushing and pushing, wanting to be successful, and then get cut; they have lost their whole childhood. Honestly, they are unlucky kids, what will be their childhood memories? Children are meant to experience fun, exciting things when they are young. Play and have fun. It is not necessary to force them to be serious therefore I believe that they are growing up too fast. Moreover, it response to your views about parents needing money, maybe the parents are partly to blame. I mean if the parents are poor and they see that their child is slightly above average, they could well take advantage of it, ‘Parents of promising athletes who are poor are often given a home in their hometowns by the local sports bureau.’ I understand parents want the best for their kids, they want nicer house, a better education but when you see thousands of young children with stern looks on their faces, sometimes even crying, you think to yourself; Is it really worth it?

      I believe that the strict and unpleasant coaches are also partly to blame for the child’s miserable future. ‘Their faces show the strain but they do not utter a sound. Often the coaches are strict and un-smiling. Some coaches are accused of regularly beating the students. In one case, the Liaoning Anshan Athletics School was found to be doping pupils as young as 15 with the hormones erythropoietin (EPO) and testosterone.’ Who gives 15 year olds drugs? It just isn’t right, they are not animals in a farm that need fattening up so we can get more meat. Chinese sports schools should be shut down if what you and many other people say Is true. However some aspects of chinese sports schools show country pride, which shows a nations that wants to succeed but if you let that power get to your head, then there’s your problem.

      I value your opinions regarding your article and I agree with most of the things you say. I hope I have helped give you some more insight and hope to hear from you in the future.

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  3. Spoiling childhood

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  4. Very very disturbing..

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  5. Stupid chinks don't even allow kids to change from their PJs!!! They also sell mentally handicapped kids to factories. They work in remote places and die if from exposure, elements attempting to escape.

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    1. fucking racist hillbillies

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    2. how is this comment by "fukthishit" even allowed!??? YOU FUCKING HILLBILLY!!! WHITE TRASH!!

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  6. unbelievable,its child cruelty

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  7. Sad! The challenge will eva go higher in this world and only few would b able to compete in d end part of d earth. In fact those that push it may even lose their lives.

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  8. ah its not in india.......

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  9. chins to world domination u shall see

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    1. Like Michio Kaku says: America has lost its advantage, namely the "GENIUS VISA"! A very large percentage of ours scientists are foreigners, mostly Germans, Deutch & French, plus some Indians, and yes, Chinese. And right now, they're all going home!!! I know: I'm one!

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    2. LOL HAHAHA anon March 2, 2013 at 12:25 PM!! So much for so called white intelligence!! Hahahah!

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  10. why don't they show pictures of how young white russian athletes are trained? They are just as tough. Oh wait, coz they are white. Right

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    1. It's the same with the whole animal rights issue in China. Animal rights are as big a problem in Russia as they are in China. The way circus bears are treated is horrific. However you hear much less about it than you do about China strangely enough.

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    2. It has nothing to do racial shit

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  11. poor kids, what will be their childhood memories? pain just pain

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    1. You think American kids have great childhood memories? Unlike European kids, they don't go explore the countryside w their patents on week-ends, get no ski trips gallore in winter, no month long yearly summer vacations w family in exotic countries, etc... All things I had and that almost all European kids have, and more!

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  12. well at least theyre being given the opportunity to do something great....
    what many in the West forget is that there is no such thing as job seekers allowance or benefits or minimum wage.

    here - parents who have children (who may not necessarily be able to afford the child) can ensure their child eats well and has a roof over their head. Otherwise what...the child works in the fields or in a factory?

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    1. Finally, someone is thinking...

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  13. Other countries go to school FULL TIME. Only America sends its kids to school until 2 or 3pm, which is exactly why they're out roaming malls and streets and having time for peer pressure b.s. In other countries, school is 8-5. Kids get off and wait in the yard under supervision for parents to pick them up. Less crime, less teenage sex, less bullying! When WE criticize other countries schools (& God knows we're very good at criticizing others' ways of doing things...), THIS above is what they point out about us!!! Not to mention that our education - less school hours WILL do that - has now become 1 of the worst ones in the world!

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  14. But how true is this? I work for China's Olympic Team, and you can read my more accurate account here: http://www.sportphysiotherapist.com/2013/11/china-olympic-sports-physiotherapist.html

    This is actually a private academy, and yes they undertake early specialisation but at what amount? And is it really bad? Think about it, either work 14hrs in a factory, or have a real chance to show nationalism, and work less hours, do less hard work, for better money then the factory. These days the Olympic program provides opportunities for these athletes to have university education where otherwise they wouldn't have a chance, and would be stuck in a class system of farming or factory work. Think about.

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  15. Hence CHINA gets loads of GOLD @ the Olympics

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  16. @ Roger Fernades. The country with the most Olympic Gold Metals during the modern Olympic era is the United State with 2,520 followed by the former Soviet Union with 1,010 and China clocks in with 544. That shots down the notion that conscripted child athletes in China or other countries have an advantage.

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