How far would you go for your child to help him/her win a competition? Competitions are meant to establish sportsmanship, confidence and winning spirit, but in China, the idea of competition is taken to another level. With the 2016 Olympics in Rio underway, the idea of how much training is too much, when it involves a chance at qualifying for the Olympics, may give one pause for thought.
A video has been attracting attention that has stirred some controversy of how children are being trained for the Olympics in China. The video depicts children as young as 5 being subjected to harsh exercises which could be seen as being over the top. The children are screamed at, told to hang on pull-up bars for what seems like an interminable amount of time, only to be chastised if they resist or cry. My initial reaction to this video was one of horror. How was this allowed? Why was this considered “training” when to me it seemed like punishment?
The video is below.
My husband and I are familiar with training for a sport since my daughter was a competitive figure skater from ages 5 to 13. We were all new to the sport, but one thing we did know, we were supporting our daughter because she wanted to do this, not us. Her initiation with skating stemmed from seeing Michelle Kwan on a segment of the PBS cartoon show, “Arthur”. She was mesmerized by how beautifully she skated and told us that she wanted to be just like her. She even went so far as to buy a book about Michelle Kwan to read about her life and how she got started with figure skating.
While we wanted to support her wish, we also told her that it involved a lot of hard work. We weren’t trying to discourage her, but we also wanted to make sure that she knew what she needed to do to accomplish her goal. I can say that part of the attraction was being able to wear beautiful outfits for competition, but Shaina would realize how much work was involved in trying to be a competitive figure skater. It wasn’t just the sport that drew her in, it was the beauty of how one’s dream to succeed was a product of hard work and commitment.
Training for figure skating consisted of waking up at 5 AM twice a week to get to the rink at 6 AM and practice with her coach from 6-7:30 AM before school, as well as Saturdays & Sundays from 12:30 PM – 3 PM. Getting up at 5 AM was not always that easy, but my husband and I committed to making it a family affair. That meant waking up with her at 5 AM, being with our daughter during every practice, every competition, massaging every aching back and leg cramps that she experienced for eight years. At the age of 12, her Coach sat us down to discuss her future in this sport; either to go on the Olympic track or continue to compete regionally. While Shaina loved the sport, she knew that being on the Olympic track was not for her.
For the children depicted in this video, the training regimen can be viewed as harsh, if not tortuous by outsiders. Scenes depicted on the video show a child being pulled off the bar or bending one’s back so far over that it could be seen as torture. These children seem to be at a great disadvantage since they can’t fight back, and knowing the sacrifices their parents have made for them, they wouldn’t. The parents of these children place them with these trainers with the hope that their child would be the one of the lucky ones to qualify for the Olympics. It should be noted that this level of training seen on the video may not be the norm in China, but it should give one pause for thought.
The Olympics is a universal symbol of excellence and any child who dreams of achieving a medal resulting from hard work and commitment deserves that chance. Every parent, regardless of race and culture, wants the best for their child and I am not any different. I understand that given the chance, I would do everything I could to help my child achieve her dream, not mine. My hope is that this video will be a reminder that the road to the Olympics is not be about the medals, but the child’s dream of being the best they can be for himself/herself.
This article here has ignited some thought.
This is an original post to World Moms Network by World Mom, Tes Silverman in New York, USA.
Photo Credit: Moetaz Attalla via Wikimedia Commons