Chinese Sports School: Training or Torture?

Jul 21, 2011 20 comments

“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.


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.


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.






















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


  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.

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

  3. Spoiling childhood

  4. Very very disturbing..

  5. unbelievable,its child cruelty

  6. 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.

  7. ah its not in india.......

  8. chins to world domination u shall see

    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!

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

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

    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!

  10. 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?

    1. Finally, someone is thinking...

  11. 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!

  12. 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.

  13. But how true is this? I work for China's Olympic Team, and you can read my more accurate account here:

    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.

  14. Hence CHINA gets loads of GOLD @ the Olympics

  15. @ 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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