Jun 20

“Pressure” for injured athletes

Written by Buxi on Friday, June 20th, 2008 at 6:32 am
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Today’s New York Times is running an article titled China Presses Injured Athletes in Quest for Gold. The article starts by discussing diver Hu Jia, who suffered from a detached retina several years ago, putting him at risk for permanent injury. This paragraph about sums up the message behind the article:

Pressured by the national athletic system and tempted by the commercial riches awaiting star performers in the 2008 Games, China’s athletes are pushing themselves to their limits and beyond, causing some to risk their health in pursuit of nationalist glory.

Seems to me the reader is supposed to feel pity for the Chinese athletes (and some outrage towards the Chinese sports authority), for risking their health for a goal as dubious as “nationalist glory”.

Five years ago, NBA player Alonzo Mourning was diagnosed with a serious kidney disorder, with doctors telling him he risked cardiac arrest every time he stepped on the floor. And yet, he risked his life to continue playing… in fact, even after an eventual kidney transplant, he still returned time and time again. The New York Times ran an article with this title at the time: Mourning’s Dedication Won Him Admiration. The Times didn’t seem too concerned, apparently, that Mourning’s agents and employers were pressuring him into risking death, all just in order to sell basketball shoes and entertain basketball fans.

I can’t dispute the facts that the New York Times have laid out in today’s article… I suspect many Chinese athletes do indeed face pressure to win, just as athletes around the world face pressure. But for those Chinese athletes who are fighting through injury to win gold in front of their countrymen this summer, I just want to say: you don’t deserve pity. Your dedication is winning our admiration.

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45 Responses to ““Pressure” for injured athletes”

  1. A-gu Says:

    Dear Buxi,

    Thanks for commenting on my blog. Good to know you check in every now and then. You have many good and thoughtful posts. I will be linking to you and following you by RSS!

  2. DJ Says:

    It surely is interesting to revisit all the woos and haas in the press about Tiger Woods playing through two stress fractures and a torn ACL to win the US open last week, in light of this NYT article.

  3. Dandan Says:

    Buxi, agree with you on this one. Hu Jia is almost certainly self-determined to continue his career.
    Good luck to him and all other athletes. 

  4. CLC Says:

    Susan Brownell,  an expert on Chinese sports,  doesn’t think  China’s sports system is an evil medal machine portrayed in the U.S. media. See http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120819955370513509.html

  5. Dandan Says:

    Thanks CLC. Really admire Susan Brownell’s work and efforts. However, it seems to me that anyone who defends China these days, especially on political policy and sports issues, would be quickly dismissed as being commissioned or brainwashed by CCP. 
    “Most sports journalists are commentators and don’t really investigate.” I found this very true, and it went way beyond sports area. Once read an article blaming China for 97 Asia finace crisis, lol.

  6. BMY Says:

    I do think we put too much weigh on sports medals and the state invest too much on few athletes. the money should be more balanced on everege citizens sports(全民体育运动)。
    there are many schools don’t have money to buy sports equipments and many rural kids don’t have a ball to kick.
    the investment on a gold medal might be able to let thousands, if not millions, kids to have chance to play sports.

  7. Buxi Says:

    Thanks, A-Gu. For those not familiar, I believe A-Gu is an ex-pat in Taiwan. He writes an intelligent and informed blog on Taiwan, although very much in the Taiwanese independence + pan-Green direction. I’m sure we can help him see the light.

    @BMY, I don’t think the two goals are completely opposed to each other. I think doing well at the Olympics will motivate popular interest in new sports. Just look at what Yao Ming being in the NBA has done for the sport of basketball in China… I really feel like there has been an explosion of people playing basketball in the last 6 years. Eventually, China will probably look like the West, with parents pulling out their wallets and paying for sporting leagues for their children.

    I think the number of very poor rural schools, like the old wooden huts we’re used to seeing in pictures, are dropping quickly… I hate to bring up an ugly example, but look at the schools that collapsed in Wenchuan and Mianyang, small county towns high in the mountains of western Sichuan. They still had tragic problems with corruption and poor construction standards… but otherwise, those schools were better than the ones I had growing up in a major city in the East.

  8. Opersai Says:

    @Buxi and BMY I agree there are definitely still many schools in the rural, especially isolated area, that need more funding and improvement, but one of big problem is corruption. I heard from my roommate’s first hand experience of this, among many. She living in Xinjiang, and sometimes she needs to visit rural communities, and many of them are very poor. However, she was very angered that, though a lot of fund is distributed down to those villages, a big part of them are taken by the local officer, like the village chief etc. For example, she said, she saw brand new, high-tech TV in the home of the village chief with obvious signs that the TV was for the schools. She saw the village chief drive expensive cars (brand name like Benz), and live in luxuries well their fellow villagers suffer with poverty.

    I do wander, for the case of the equipment, maybe, the government shouldn’t give too expensive and good ones, so they will not attract corruption. Like, if the TV was a little out-dated, but still will satisfy the basic needs of rural school, the village chief would not have had interest to steal it. They’d end up serving their purpose as intended, instead of feed greedy pigs.

  9. Leo Says:

    BMY’s criticism is a bit unfair. All the Shanghai schools built since 1990s have wonderful sport facilities, some of them even large sport halls, which is quite a luxury in land-scarce Shanghai. Publics parks, gyms, and public sport facilities are shooting up everywhere, and they are filled and crowded. Similar facilities can be spotted across China. Recently I realized that even some schools built for ethnic Tibetans in impoverished western Sichuan are equipped with gorgeous gym halls.
    Most sport equipments are extremely cheap and abundantly available in China. If a local school cannot afford a simple football, the general situation around the school must be dire.

  10. Dan po Says:

    Two Boston celtics players died at the height of their career in the 1980’s because of health and injury problem.There were even sports related death in college sport in the u.s.a. I like to hear what the NYT said about them.

  11. yo Says:

    I agree that the NYT singling out China is misleading because I feel this happens in the U.S.  as well, of course,  agreeing with the practice or not is another issue.  I just love this quote from Ricky Watters who infamously gave up on a play to avoid a hit.  When asked why he gave up, he said: “For who? For what?” He took a lot of flak for that.

  12. Dan Says:

    This is a great example of how people look at other countries so differently than their own.  Great atheletes in all sports and in all countries are, pretty much by definition, intense competitors.  They will do what it takes to play in the Olympics or the big game. 

  13. S.K. Cheung Says:

    Lenny Bias died of a cocaine overdose.  Stupid is as stupid does.  It was pretty big news, cuz I think he was a No 1 pick, but he died soon after the draft.  He hadn’t even gone to his first training camp.
    Reggie Lewis died of a heart condition, and his death was big news, since he was a star player on a big team, especially in New England…but we even heard about it in Canada…imagine that!
    Hank Gathers was a Loyola Marymount college b-ball player who died on the court, and it was a significant news item at the time.
    I don’t know if NYT covered these stories, but somebody did.  However, I don’t think that’s the point.
    I agree that Zo put his health potentially at risk.  And I certainly agree that professional athletes probably consider themselves indestructible, and probably do things on and off the playing field that most of us would (or could) not.  And you need a large amount of the right stuff to make it on the big stage.  However, I don’t think that’s the point either.
    In fact, some athletes knowingly do things to themselves that may well be harmful, just to gain an edge (see Marion Jones, Ben Johnson…from Canada no less…sigh…, Jan Ulrich (pro cyclist)…Barry Bonds…I might be offending San Franciscans on this blog with that one…the list goes on).  I don’t think that’s the point either.
    I think the point comes down to whether the motivation lies within, or comes from external sources.  As for the nature of those external forces in the context of China, the insinuation is obvious.  I think the real question is whether there is any basis to those insinuations.

  14. yo Says:


    “I think the point comes down to whether the motivation lies within, or comes from external sources.”

    I think you are drawing a false distinction here.  The pressure to succeed from external forces and the internal motivation to succeed happens all the time in sports, and are definitely not mutually exclusive nor are they unique in the Chinese context. 

    The distinction that the NYT is making is disingenuous.  

  15. Wu Di Says:

    Here’s yet another NYT article…

    And I’m sure there’ll be more of such press in the future.

    To me those articles do point out an underlying difference between athletes in the U.S. and in China.

    From a U.S. perspective sports is a deeply individualist activity, most professional athletes are first of all individualists training to be the best in the world because it is their life’s goal (and maybe they want to be rich and/or famous along the way, too). Of course there are trainers and also regional or national sports-related associations that have their own agendas and exert pressures on these athletes but arguably there is still a qualitative difference when comparing the situation of U.S. athletes to the situation in China.

    In China sports seems to be used, in many ways, as a means to achieve national fame and unity. Unfortunately this often happens at the expense of individuals. Individuals have little freedom to influence their lives and have to give up their personal lives for their country — and it is no wonder that many actually loathe their strict training regiment instead of enjoying it. Sometimes I’m wondering how much faster/higher/stronger some of these athletes could be if they were granted more freedom to be with their families and control their own training program — in other words, if they were allowed to develop intrinsic motivation for becoming faster/higher/stronger at whatever they do.

    To me, pointing out this difference is the main argument in these NYT articles. An athlete’s dedication is one thing, but imho insisting on superhuman personal sacrifice in order to achieve national fame is not the best strategy, in many regards. One’s own health and family should be regarded as more important than the abstract goals of others. And when I look at how some Chinese athletes are treated and (ab-)used then I do feel pity.

  16. ChinkTalk Says:

    Silken Lauman, A Canadian icon, was lauded for her courage after winning an Olympic medal competing with a very serious injury.  Funny that when a Chinese athelete is injured and competes, s/he is being pressed by the Chinese government.  The following is a quote from Wkik:

    Arguably the most famous incident in Laumann’s life was during her training leading up to the 1992 Summer Olympics. One of the odds-on favourites to capture a gold medal, her shell was involved in a collision with the boat of German coxless pair team Colin von Ettinghausen and Peter Hoeltzenbein on May 15, 1992. Despite horrendous injuries to her leg (in her words, “I looked at the leg for a few seconds and knew it was serious when my muscle was hanging at my ankle and I could see the bone”[1]), five operations and a total stay in the hospital of approximately three weeks, Laumann was back on the water training by late June. Her efforts paid off with a bronze medal, ….

    I am not pro-China, but the more I see this type of innuendos demonizing the Chinese from the Western media, the more I intend to sympathize with the Chinese. 

  17. Leo Says:

    @Wu Di,

    If this is the main argument of this NYT article, I have to say that the NYT journalists are doing a very bad job. They want to paint a picture that the concentration camp-like sport schools are only pipelines for sport career in China, which is not. When I was in the school, I knew several guys who were in the provincial sport programs. I have a cousin who was in the Shanghai swimming team and competed for China in the junior events. She did not live on any sport school compounds. Since she won a few medals, she was later rewarded a scholarship.

    NYT and a lot of other articles want to give the readers an impression that China has thrown a lot of resources into sport and churn out world champions like a monstrous machine, which is very untrue. Most sport schools in China are underfunded (except those which can regularly turn out world champions) and most Chinese who know a little bit about Chinese sport schools know that these schools are the most pathetic institutions of every localities, and the kids going to there are not up to anything else. Chinese parents won’t sacrefice their kids’ academic prospect over a sport one if their kids have got any.

    These articles also want to spread a clichés that Chinese government ruthlessly abused the athletes, which is also totally out of the context. If you go to any Chinese schools, there will be very little personal freedom. You will get very little afterschool time to hang around, play sports, and chill with your mates. Teachers and parents put tremendous pressure on you and want to direct every minute of your miserable life into academic study session.

    If these journalists conceal these facts and ignore these contexts, they are not presenting a truthful picture of Chinese sports.

  18. Wu Di Says:

    @Leo: I didn’t say the NYT articles were particularly balanced, and agree with your points! Guess Western journalists writing about China are facing difficulties achieving a “truthful picture of Chinese sports” (or of anything else): Often they have to write what people want to read; they have tight deadlines; plus various issues (lack of knowledge, access, time) prevent them from really ‘going native’ and understanding the whole story…

  19. Buxi Says:

    Another article, I guess we can call this a series now, from the NY Times: In China’s Medal Factory, Winners Cannot Quit

    Yang said he could not stand his life.

    For nearly a decade, he has tried to quit canoeing, he told The New York Times during an interview at the training center. He said he would rather attend college or start a business, but acknowledged that he was ill-equipped to do either one.

    “I do not want to work as an athlete, but as an athlete here I have no freedom to choose my future,” Yang said, speaking through the team’s official interpreter. “As a child, I didn’t learn anything but sport, and now what do I do? I can’t do anything else. I have my own dreams, but it is very difficult. I don’t have the foundation to make them come true.”

    Officials refused to let Yang retire, even after he won Olympic gold in the C-2 500-meter race with Meng Guanliang at the Athens Games in 2004. He described how they had threatened to withhold his retirement payment if he did not compete through the Beijing Games.

    To me, I couldn’t possibly dispute the facts as Yang has described them. 

    I think it’s a shame that he’s in the sports program and probably competing in Beijing; I wish he could leave his career and do something else, and I also wish our tax dollars weren’t going into his pocket.  That’s the extent of my feelings on Yang after reading the article.

    But the NY Times article, again, uses keywords that to me seem incredibly unfair and misleading. 

    “Freedom?”  Just to be clear, Yang has the legal freedom to quit and do something else at any time he wants.  But just like every single one of us, he’s constrained by the economic realitics of the real world.  Yang is not the only person in China (or this world) tired of his career, and wishing he could just travel the world… if he could only afford it.

    “Refuse to let him quit?”   To my eyes at least, it hints at some sort of LEGAL consequences for quitting (cue file footage of 6/4 and tank-man).  Again, just to be clear, the facts laid out in the article don’t suggest any consequences.  They’ve only refused to pay him his full retirement pension if he retires at 24… that doesn’t, to me, seem remotely outrageous.

    Life in the sporting system is just another career, and a voluntary one.

    The way I see it is, I personally wouldn’t send my kids into the sporting system… but that’s because I’m fortunate enough to have other options.  But for others, I see this as an excellent opportunity to better themselves.  The sporting system absolutely must live up to its commitment of providing for athletes who spend their youth trying to win “nationalist glory”… but for disgruntled athletes who quit half way through, well, giving them the freedom to sink or swim on their own seems the only fair solution!

  20. Wu Di Says:

    @Buxi: It seems you lack compassion and solidarity for “disgruntled athletes” like Yang although you acknowledge that unlike you, he and others may simply not be fortunate enough to have other options.

    Do you think the sporting system will evolve automatically, or may it actually be necessary to involve national (well, not happening, for obvious reasons) or international media such as the NYT in order to bring about more fairness and treat athletes with more humanity?

    Interpreting the sporting system as just one more voluntary career may seem convenient, but to those who are part of it this may sound quite cynical. From what I heard it’s really not as voluntary as you make it look. So don’t you think the system needs improvement and the athletes need your compassion? It’s a matter of social responsibility, in a way.

    (also see comments #15, 17, 18 above)

  21. Wu Di Says:

    @Buxi: A related question: Do you think Yang shouldn’t have talked to the NYT and brought shame on China by exposing some of its flaws?

  22. Buxi Says:

    Wu Di,

    I don’t have a problem with Yang speaking to the NYT.  The hallmark of a confident China is an open China, and we’re well past the era where people should shy away from speaking to the foreign press for fear of losing face.  

    I do have a problem with the NYT’s interpretation of Yang’s words, however.

    As far as having compassion for “disgruntled athletes”… I personally have compassion for hundreds of millions of my fellow Chinese, forced to work in difficult conditions for very low pay.  But unfortunately, as close as I can tell, that’s the way the world functions at this point in time.  The only solution that I can see is for China to become a wealthier nation such that even our poorest citizens will enjoy a better a life.  I have no other special compassion for Yang.  I don’t believe he was misled, nor do I believe the Chinese sports system has failed to live up to its commitment to him. 

    You ask whether it makes sense for the international media to “pressure” the sports system into evolving… let me ask a different question first: how do you propose it evolving at all?   What should it evolve into?

  23. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Buxi:
    “Life in the sporting system is just another career, and a voluntary one.”- this might be true around here, but I’m not sure it is in China.  I don’t know at what age the authorities start having tunnel vision for developing rowers in China, but it seems that this guy is ill-equipped to do much else…and he says so in so many words.  Just as a middle-age guy in the UAW who’s spent his adult life making trucks for GM, who’s now getting laid off because trucks don’t sell well when gas is $4 a gallon, but doesn’t know how to do anything else; so too is this rower who’s spent the better part of his 24 years rowing, possibly at the expense of an education, and almost certainly at the expense of learning a marketable skill.  SO it’s not like he’s got a lot of options.  And if the government threatens his only means of income in the form of his pension, it is much more coercive than you seem able to fathom.

  24. Wu Di Says:

    @Buxi: Re/ your question: The system should simply evolve into a more humane one. Stop threatening to withhold retirement payment if the athletes don’t agree to do something, for starters. Give the athletes more say (i.e. don’t treat them like slaves) and offer opportunities for when their athletic career is over, etc.

    From your point of view every individual is responsible for their own well-being. You have recognized how this world works and I have no doubt you will go far in this world and will achieve everything you desire for yourself and your family. Just please don’t forget that a society is built on more than individual zest and the desire for wealth, it’s built on compassion and understanding. Simply pointing at economic development (which in fact creates a greater rift between the rich and the poor) to solve the problems of the disadvantaged in Chinese society is not sufficient. And if some of my mainland Chinese friends read your words, they tell me about the arrogance and selfishness of overseas Chinese — evading social responsibilities by going abroad and having more time to do their own thing.

    I’m not saying they’re right, I’m just pointing out what they say — and if this website is meant to create understanding and eventually move mountains then it would be good to heed their voices or at least try to understand where they are coming from. The Chinese sports system does not only consist of superstars a la Liu Xiang that are treated really well; the majority is training under rather inhumane conditions (and I happen to know some of them).

  25. Wu Di Says:

    Just an afterthought: Come to think of it, in a way the problems of the Chinese sport system reflect the problems of mainland China at large — its citizens don’t have much say in how the country/system is run either, and they can face threats that their retirement payment gets withheld if they do the wrong things…

  26. Buxi Says:

    Wu Di,

    I believe in compassion, but I also have a very pragmatic outlook on economic rights and responsibilities.

    “Stop threatening to withhold retirement payments?” I don’t see withholding retirement payments for someone that doesn’t qualify as a “threat”. Let’s distinguish between charity and justified compensation. When I read about the former Olympic gold medalist who was forced to work as a street-peddler (major news in China last year, and mentioned briefly in the NYT article), I absolutely felt compassion and great sadness for her outcome. I’m glad she was the recipient of charity; she’s someone that deserves our compassion. All athletes who go through the sports system but struggle deserve our basic compassion. None of that has to do with overseas Chinese and “evading social responsibility”, and none of that has to do with “problems with China in general”… (a pretty remarkably confusing and unconvincing argument that we can discuss later.)

    Does Yang deserve charity? Perhaps, if he’s struggling economically. Does Yang “deserve” his retirement pension? No, not if he hasn’t earned it by fulfilling his commitments to the sports system. I didn’t blame Yang for not wanting to continue, but I refuse to blame the Chinese sports system for his unhappiness. I think it’s simply unfortunate all around that he’s in a career he turns out to dislike.

    After reading the above article, I scanned through some old articles on Yang. In 2006, his foreign coach went public with a series of harsh criticisms of Yang… after falling back and having no chance to win the gold medal in the Asian Games, he quit on his coach and his team. He stopped rowing, and gave up an almost guaranteed bronze medal, coming in 5th. Again, how much moral and legal responsibility does our country have to allow him to retire early and travel the world?


    I think your analogy to the GM worker is perfect, when we talk about athletes in the Chinese sports system. I can also give you 100 other similar examples. I happen to know many doctors and medical students; some absolutely hate their careers with a passion, they dread waking up every morning… but they still have to, because they have nearly $200k in student loans which aren’t erased even with personal bankruptcy.

    You might also have heard of Ricky Williams, a running back in the NFL. Very talented but extremely shy and deeply unhappy in the NFL, he tried to retire so that he could study Buddhism and smoke marijuana in peace. He was subsequently sued and told to return the signing bonus he had received years later. He couldn’t afford the repayment, and had to try to restart his career in football.

    It’s all sad. Everyone “should” be happy. But now let’s talk practically. Who’s at fault? Who’s responsible for retraining the GM worker? Who’s responsible for giving Ricky Williams the financial flexibility to smoke marijuana without carrying a football? Who’s responsible for Yang’s desire to travel the world without having to practice so hard?

    What do you suggest we actually “do” about things like this?

  27. Wu Di Says:

    Well, let’s agree to disagree. I still believe that pragmatism and a focus on economic rights and responsibilities doesn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again, and that those who suffer from an inhumane sports system don’t ask for charity, they ask for rights and for being taken seriously. Not something you seem to be willing to grant them.

    Don’t get me wrong: I’m not suggesting that the Chinese sports system is all bad, just that, as all systems, it could be improved. And I’m also not saying that Yang or any other athlete should be given free reign to exploit the system for personal benefit.

    By the way, suggesting that winning some medals in rowing (rowing really isn’t ping pong, is it?) would allow an athlete to retire and travel the world seems a bit far-fetched.

  28. FOARP Says:

    I think the main problem with focusing all this money on a few atheletes with the sole goal of winning medals is how little it has to do with encouraging team work – surely the best thing that most people learn from sports.

  29. Buxi Says:


    I really don’t think Chinese society needs to learn more about collaboration and team work… 🙂  One of China’s first Olympic medals came from women’s volleyball, a team event. 

    In fact, a rather infamous case (maybe you’re already aware of this)… He Zhili was a singles player on the Chinese national  table tennis team.  She was also a world champion.  During one match against another member of the Chinese national team, coaches actually told her to intentionally lose (team work!), since they thought the other player had a better chance in the finals.  He Zhili refused, and instead won the match.  After that point, she was taken off the team. 

    Sparks really fly when He Zhili later marries a Japanese man, and emigrates to Japan.  She joined the Japanese national team, and in at least one case in the late ’90s, was extremely, extreeeemly “expressive” while beating a former Chinese national team colleague. 

    Yao Ming was also heavily criticized for being passive and team-oriented when he first went overseas to the NBA…

    @Wu Di,

    I’m perfectly willing to take Yang seriously, and I believe he should have “rights”… not luxuries.  I simply don’t see his situation as a “freedom” situation.  A guaranteed retirement pension while quitting the company early is something I think many of us would like to have, but are unlikely to get.  By the way, gold medal winners are awarded 200k RMB by the national government, and usually hundreds of thousands more from the local and provincial government (see: free condo mentioned above).

  30. FOARP Says:

    @Buxi – Two short sentences: Defensive play in basketball. The Chinese men’s football team.

  31. yo Says:

    Ok, I’ll bite, what are you talking about? 🙂
    “Defensive play in basketball. The Chinese men’s football team.”

    I don’t think Yao was criticized about being team-oriented, but he was criticized for being passive.  I don’t know about now, but in the beginning, much smaller players where able to post up against him and back him up.

  32. FOARP Says:

    The basketball team goes to pieces in defence, the football team simply does not play as a team.

  33. yo Says:

    ahhhh.  icic.  What you said was cryptic so i was very curious. 

    In regards to basketball, China is a top 10 team.  In that point of view, that’s not bad.   However, people might disagree if they agree with these quotes:
    1.  “2nd place is the first loser”
    2. “Wining isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”
    3. “The Olympics are about giving out medals of beautiful gold, so-so silver and shameful bronze”

    Does anyone know where the 3rd reference is from 🙂  Truer words were never spoken.
    Ok, that was a bit off topic.

  34. Buxi Says:

    The basketball team’s defense isn’t its biggest problem, its the guard play (IMO).  And as far as football, we used to have a woman’s football team we could be very proud of.

    Yao Ming was “blamed” for being too team-oriented early in his career… he was always too willing to pass the ball out.  They worked hard on making him understand he had to be the guy… which was a novel concept.

  35. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Buxi:
    “I don’t see withholding retirement payments for someone that doesn’t qualify as a “threat”. Let’s distinguish between charity and justified compensation.” – but a pension isn’t meant to reward someone for what they’ll do tomorrow; it’s to thank someone for what they did yesterday.  So how does an athlete who wants to quit today diminish his efforts and contributions from years past?
    I’m familiar with Ricky Williams; he played in Toronto in the CFL for part of one season (he got hurt) when he was suspended from the NFL for blazing up one too many dubies.  I agree he should have been liable for the signing bonus, since he didn’t fulfill his contractual obligations.  However, I don’t see the parallel, unless the Chinese athletes sign contracts beholding them to the national team for x number of years.  So did he break his “contract”, or is he simply saying he’s lost his mojo for his sport.  Is losing your drive after many years of training a good justification for revoking a guy’s pension?

    To Yo:
    Lombardi aside, it hardly seems shameful to be the third best in the world at something 🙂

    To FOARP:
    I agree with the “team” stuff.  In fact, to me, the Olympics is primarily about individual achievement and glory.  Sure, there are team sports, and team-oriented events are probably more relevant in terms of engendering national pride.  But you get your face on the Wheeties box by winning individual gold in, say, the men’s 100, as opposed to being on the gold medal 4X100 team, or on a gold-medal winning volleyball team.

  36. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To FOARP:
    in furtherance to the team stuff, (and sorry to have to bring this up), but would the Brits relish a Euro cup, a World Cup, or an Olympic gold more?  As an aside, I’m fancying the Russians…they’re playing the beautiful game beautifully, IMO.

  37. FOARP Says:

    @SK Cheung – “I’m fancying the Russians…they’re playing the beautiful game beautifully”

    And to think, Gus Hiddink could have been England manager . . . .

  38. Buxi Says:

    S.K. Cheung,

    So did he break his “contract”, or is he simply saying he’s lost his mojo for his sport.

    I don’t understand the “or” here. I think the article is pretty clear; he’s lost his mojo, and therefore he wanted to break his contract. (With the very new legal system in China, I can’t promise there was a legal contract signed with his parents in the early 90s when he probably joined the sports system. But oral agreement or common-law understanding of what joining the sports system should be clear. Retiring at 24… or more accurately, at 20, after the Athens Olympics… is not one of those things that happen.)

    By the way, there’s the reverse scenario. I’ve been reading several articles about Italian and Spanish football clubs forbidding their stars from competing for their national teams in the Beijing Olympics. Wish someone would fight for their freedom.

  39. yo Says:

    S.K. Cheung,


    Simpsons episode when Springfield was trying to host the Olympics.

    Actually, when the U.S Men’s b-ball team only got the bronze in Athens, I think that was shameful 🙂

    Expectation wise for China, I think they would be so happy if their b-ball team got the bronze, or any medal for that matter.

    For the U.S., if they don’t win the gold, they might as well stay in China, because they aren’t coming back here, no pressure of course 🙂

  40. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Buxi:
    “Retiring at 24… or more accurately, at 20, after the Athens Olympics… is not one of those things that happen.” – that’s certainly true for you and me, and for most lines of work. But the playing life of an elite athlete is measured far differently. Justine Henin retired at 25 (while she was still #1 in the world). Federer might be having a bad year, or he might be passing his peak, and he’s 28. For every Chris Chelios (Detroit Red Wings defenceman, age 42, still in the bigs, although notably did not play a single minute of the Stanley Cup Finals as he wasn’t among the Wings’ top 6 D), there are numerous others who are washed up at much younger ages. I don’t know the effective lifespan of a rower. But if he’s reached it, then what’s wrong with letting him go his way with the pension he’s earned for past service? And what is this “common-law understanding” when he (or more accurately, his parents) “signed up” for the national sports program? Hopefully it isn’t for him to row until he gets arthritic shoulders.

    “I’ve been reading several articles about Italian and Spanish football clubs forbidding their stars from competing for their national teams in the Beijing Olympics” – this is an entirely different matter. These clubs have millions invested in the star players who would be coveted by national teams. If Kaka goes to play for Brazil and Brazil win gold, what good does that do for AC Milan? But conversely, if Kaka goes and breaks his leg, AC’s lost arguably the best attacking midfielder in the world, and who’s going to pay the club’s financial losses? So this is completely different from the Chinese rower, whose only relationship is with his national team. THat’s got nothing to do with freedom.

  41. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Yo:
    you’re right, bronze for the Dream Team wouldn’t do them much good. I guess it’s just like Canadians and our hockey teams.

  42. yo Says:


  43. Charles Liu Says:

    When Kerri Strug went out on the floor to compete with a bad ankle during 1996 Olympics, nobody cried “pressure”. They said “courageous”, “unforgettable”, “heroic”…

    As usual, when the ch!nks do it, it’s bad. What a bunch of anti-China BS.

  44. Charles Liu Says:

    As to Wu De’s distinction of “personal gain vs. national glory”. Well, look at The Dream Team, these were professional NBA players going for personal gain in Olympics?

    How about all those Li Ning brand plastic slippers in China after he won gold? Was he going for national glory of unified footware, or personal gain?

  45. S.K. Cheung Says:

    To Charles:
    the difference probably is that she wanted to go on, whereas this rower clearly doesn’t. Now, if she didn’t want to compete, and her coaches threw her out there anyway at the threat of losing her sports pension, that’d be another matter.
    I agree Dream Teamers certainly have no financial incentive to be in the Olympics. Perhaps the personal gain for them is in fact the personal glory. However, keep in mind that in many North American sports, the player’s salary is paid over the regular season; they’re competing in the playoffs for free, except for a playoff bonus which is usually a pittance compared to their usual pay. So perhaps the pros want to go to the Olympics for the same reason they want to win the championships in their respective sports.

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