Source: NYT (7/29/21)
The Chinese Sports Machine’s Single Goal: The Most Golds, at Any Cost
China relies on a system that puts tens of thousands of children in government-run training schools. Many of the young athletes are funneled into less prominent sports that Beijing hopes to dominate.
By Hannah Beech
TOKYO — Six days a week since she was 12 years old, with only a few days of time away each year, Hou Zhihui has been driven by one mission: heaving more than double her body weight into the air.
On Saturday, at the Tokyo Olympics, Hou’s dedication — sequestered from her family, dogged by near constant pain — paid off. She won gold in the 49-kilogram division and shattered three Olympic records, part of a fearsome Chinese women’s weight lifting squad that aimed to sweep every weight class it was contesting.
“The Chinese weight lifting team is very cohesive, and the support from the entire team is very good,” Hou, 24, said after winning gold. “The only thing we athletes think about is focusing on training.”
China’s sports assembly line is designed for one purpose: churning out gold medals for the glory of the nation. Silver and bronze barely count. By fielding 413 athletes in Tokyo, its largest ever delegation, China aims to land at the top of the gold medal count — even if the Chinese public is increasingly wary of the sacrifices made by individual athletes.
“We must resolutely ensure we are first in gold medals,” Gou Zhongwen, the head of the Chinese Olympic Committee, said on the eve of the Tokyo Olympics. Continue reading