The 16-year-old, Ye Shiwen of China known as the ‘Mandarin Mermaid’ swam faster than US superstar Ryan Lochte. “It was pretty impressive. And, it was a female. She’s fast. If she was there with me, I don’t know, she might have beaten me” Lochte said.
Ye Shiwen said her extraordinary swim was the result of “hard work and training”.
In an effort to transform China into a global athletic power, the state-run athletics programs with a single-minded fixation on winning gold medals, earmark potential champions at a young age. Then, they haul those children away to camps and subject them to gruel training with its tough Soviet-style fitness programs.
At the London Olympics China’s star diver, 26-year-old Wu Minxia became the first diver ever to win golds at three consecutive games in the 3-meter synchronized springboard. She sacrificed her school education and family life to win the gold for her country.
Since the age of six, Wu trained daily at a diving camp and at 16 she had to move away from her family to live in a state-financed sports academy where training is grueling. She did not attend school. She had to dive all day for more than 10 years.
Wu Minxia rarely met her family members. Her parents followed her on Weibo, a Chinese microblogging site akin to a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook. In London, they could not meet her in person before the event. They watched their daughter perform from the stands. They had to withhold the news of her grandparents’ death for over a year. She was not even told that her mother had contracted cancer eight years ago. “We have known for years that our daughter did not belong to us anymore,” said Wu Yuming, her father.
Lin won a gold medal in men’s weight lifting. His father who had not seen him for six and a half years. He told reporters that he did not recognize his 23-year-old son until he heard his name mentioned on television.
Note: This five-part video presentation titled “How China trains (read: tortures!) its kids to become Olympic champions!” It vividly expounds the gruesome methods adopted by the Chinese coaches in training potential champions at a young age.
Ellie May Challis born in Essex, England in 2004, was just 16 months old, when struck down with a near-fatal case of meningitis. She survived, but the severe effect of the deadly septicemia bacteria caused both her arms and legs to be amputated.
Originally fitted with standard prosthetic legs, Ellie had a difficult time keeping up with her siblings (twin sister, Sophie and older siblings: Tai-la, 9 and Connor, 11) and other children her age.
Ellie’s community falling in love with the little girl, raised enough money for new carbon-fiber Cheetah Flex-Foot prosthetic legs, same as those used by Paralympic sprinter, Oscar ‘Blade Runner’ Pistorius. This makes Ellie the youngest person ever to have carbon fiber prosthetic legs. On the first day of her school, Ellie walked on her own in her new carbon-fiber Cheetah Flex-Foot prosthetic legs.
The lightweight carbon-fiber being extremely strong, has advantages over fiberglass or Kevlar. However, it has a disadvantage too. When bent to a great extent, carbon-fiber can break. The engineers of prosthetic limbs have been working on this issue for some time.
Though Ellie loves her new limbs, they must be replaced every two years as she continues to grow. The director at Dorset Orthopaedic who custom made her legs said: “We were worried that she wouldn’t be able to balance properly on them, but she has made amazing progress. Within seconds of having them on, she was off. It will change her life.”
Ellie’s father extremely pleased with the results said: “Ellie can walk twice as fast on these new legs. She is so full of determination.”
Here’s a video of Ellie learning to walk using the new carbon fiber legs:
A few months ago, Oscar ‘Blade Runner’ Pistorius known as the “Blade Runner” and “the fastest man with no legs” met the chirpy 8-year-old Ellie May Challis.They decided to challenge each other to a few races. Pistorius seemed to have underestimated Ellie. Just mere weeks after learning to walk with her new carbon fiber prosthetic legs, Ellie beat Pistorius in all four of their 15-meter races!