The lower-than-expected achievements of China’s Olympic team in London 2012 triggers off much soul-searching. China veteran Bill Dodson believes the country needs to break away from the current Soviet-style program, he writes on his weblog. The athletes need dreams, no targets.
China’s system is based on the Soviet model of cull ‘em and cuff ‘em while potential athletes are very young. There seems to be no choice for candidates. And therein lies the nub of the problem with the old system. Athletes are ground down until there’s no longer any point – to themselves, to their grueling efforts, to the very sport. The system treats them like graphite pencils put through the sharpener until all that remains is rubber eraser. They become over-trained, over-stressed, robotic, eventually.
Precise where precision counts, but otherwise mechanical in their execution. This is especially apparent in team sports like volley ball, basketball and international football (soccer). And highlighted by uncompetitive strategies that tried to skirt the rules (as in ping pong), instead of living up to the spirit of the Olympics.
The one thing, though, that consistently stirred me and inspired me throughout the Olympics was an expression of Heart. However mawkish, I was genuinely transfixed by some of the victories of the American and British athletes. For the most part, those who won and lost competitions on the teams really really wanted to realize their dreams. And therein lays the difference between the Chinese athletes and the rest: the Chinese had goals to meet – just as their academic counterparts have test results to realize in the dreaded gao kao (university examination); the rest have dreams to make reality.
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