Chinese Gymnastics Kids: Training with Tears, Sweat, & Dreams

A young Chinese girl training in gymnastics.

A young Chinese girl training in gymnastics.

From QQ:

Gymnastics Children

One movement repeated so many times, even hundreds of times. One set of movements practiced for five years. Every year, more than 30 children join the gymnastics team, but very few are able to stick with it. “Every year there are so many talented children who give up on training, which is so saddening,” says the coach. Photographed by Zhang Yuan. [click to enlarge]

Chinese children doing handstands for gymnastics training.

The little kids practice using their tender hands to stand upside-down. Coach Xia repeats over and over again the essential elements, correcting the kids’ posture one by one. “Those who do it well can come down earlier, otherwise they have to keep standing upside-down.”. Upside-down undershorts have become a characteristic sight in the gymnasium.

Little Chinese children undergoing gymnastics training.

Chain reaction: If one child utters a cry, it will prompt the entire group of children to cry, and the more they cry, the louder it gets. At this time Coach Xia will “tempt” them with snacks.

Chinese children hanging upside down on a bar, resting during gymnastics training.

Four lively “little bats” hanging there resting.

A little Chinese girl showing both of her hands covered with magnesium powder used to prevent slipping while undergoing gymnastics training.

“Look at my hands, this is called ‘magnesium powder’, which Coach Xia says can prevent slipping”, Man Ni says while raising up both of her hands.

Chinese children training their toes for toe point by walking laps on their toes.

In order to do toe point, the children must endure walking several laps with their toes bent under every day.

A Chinese girl screams in pain during muscle stretches as her toes curl up in a cramp.

Curled toes cramping, the pain of stretching muscles causes the child to cry loudly. Coach Xia says this is what a gymnast trainer must endure.

A 6-year-old Chinese girl and her mother during gymastics training.

Because 6-year-old Xuan Xuan comes from Gansu province, she can’t bear the hot humid climate of the south and has heat rashes all over her body that are both painful and itchy. Applying some floral water, the pain causes Xuan Xuan to cry out, as her mother hurries to help by blowing on her skin. Heartbroken over the suffering of her child, but wishing a bright future for her child even more, she can’t give up half way because of a moment’s weakness, especially when her child herself likes the sport and has talent. Xuan Xuan’s mother can only watch and bury her own hurt in her heart.

Little Chinese girls practicing the splits for gymnastics.

In her determined expression is also a kind of numbness, having become accustomed to training like this every day, as well as screaming from pain daily, persisting on.

Two Chinese children training to become gymnasts play shadow puppets during a break.

When break time comes, the children’s innate natures burst forth, playing games, running around chasing each other, where everything in a room with only exercise everything can be a toy, even a ray of sunlight. Two children compete to see whose eagle can fly higher.

A Chinese child practicing gymnastics.

After doing a set routine, one also has to repeat a movement many times, even hundreds of times. Just one routine needs five years of practice.

A Chinese child undergoing gymnastics training with her coach.

Pain is present every day, but the children persevere, for their own dreams of becoming champions.

Two Chinese boys in gymnastics training in China.

“Abs that one can brag about in front of their classmates are developed like this.” Boys don’t complain so much. Whatever the coach says to do, they do, and can complete their tasks very quickly.

Little boys in China undergoing gymnastics training.

Boys are more mischievous, always liking to show off whenever they see the camera.

A Chinese boy doing a handstand during gymnastics training.

The children’s innate natures can be seen after training.

A Chinese boy relaxing after gymnastics training.

The children’s innate natures can be seen after training.

Several Chinese children playing around after gymnastics training.

The children’s innate natures can be seen after training.

Three Chinese boys lying on a mat after gymnastics training.

Coach Xia says there aren’t many people learning gymnastics these days, that parents who don’t see achievements after one to two years of training will abandon it. “Every year there are many talented kids who give up training, which is really disappointing.”

A bright red "gold" Chinese character hangs on the wall as young children train to become gymnasts.

A giant “gold” character is hung on the wall, bright red and hot, always searing itself into the young hearts and minds of the children. “Children with this kind of dream and who can stick [with the training] are few and far between. Most parents will feel for their children, and end up burying a good seedling [wasting a child with good potential],” says Coach Xia regrettably. “A child who can successfully take this path, most should thank their parents for persevering.”

Young Chinese children training to become gymnasts.

Here, childhood is spent on balance beams, parallel bars and vaults, because in here lie their dreams. Three and a half year old Man Ni doesn’t know what this is all about, only aware that she likes walking on a balance beam, swinging on the uneven bars. Her childhood, just like that of other kids, belongs to sweat and tears.

Comments from QQ:

腾讯黑龙江省网友 含笑看蒼天:

Sports was created for the health and strength of humankind. Today, however, some sports have already become something that harms the body and heart of children. For gold medals, many athletes suffer from bone deformation, over exhaustion and severe illness. Is this the spirit of sports? Is this the meaning of sports for people? In sports, some small injuries are inevitable, but mankind should adamantly oppose those sports methods that harm the growth and development of children and harm the health and lives of people. Compared with a person’s health, what worth is a gold medal?

腾讯银川市网友 丫丫:

The children’s tears, sweat, those tender faces, the pain and the smiles, they all deeply break my heart. I really do want to go hug them. The reason Chinese gymnastics can be so strong, we have to thank these little kids, thank those “cruel” parents, and thank those trainers and coaches who quietly give their all. In comparison, should those sports or athletes that have the attention of more people pay respect to these children?

腾讯上海市网友 [email protected]廖:

The spirit of China’s competitive sports is way too twisted. Without any one knowing the reasons, competitive sports is raised to the national level, but the roots of competitive sports are ignored. The belief that the nation is strong as long as the civilians are strong has been abandoned. [The government] attempts to exhibit the model of a strong nation while having ignored the basic rule that the people have to be strong first. It’s not only about competitive sports, but also about the economic basis. In fact, the so-called “tighten our belts to catch up with Britain and surpass the US” policy has already made the nation lose its fundamental vitality. Many men with insight have slowed down and pondered, with the way of heaven diverging from the way of man, who is wrong? “Resenting heaven and blaming man” may not just be a derogatory saying after all!

腾讯石家庄市网友 随遇而安:

Success achieved truly through one’s sweat. Whether they succeed or not, they are worth respecting.

腾讯河北省网友 冬日阳光:

A little cruel. Though it is said “no pain, no gain”, I still think we should consider the children a bit.

腾讯北京市网友 晓风残月:

Too much of anything is as bad as too little. This is a phenomenon caused by greed. This does not accord with the principle of putting people first.

腾讯苏州市网友 wjY傲血男儿:

Those who only know how to coddle their children but don’t know how to teach children what is determination and perseverance, don’t talk out of your ass. It’s widely said that kids nowadays don’t know how to endure hardship, and isn’t it all because of how parents like you raised them? If you don’t understand, don’t talk.

腾讯网友 Me︵洃´ 冭誏:

Yes, it is very hard and tiring for the kids… choosing perseverance, success… I wish the best for this bunch of kids!

腾讯网友 air清风:

I recommend the promotion of Rhythmic Gymnastics, which can cultivate the kids’ sense of expression. Even if they don’t take the path of professional athletes, they can also pursue the modeling, dance, television, and artistic fields.

腾讯宁波市网友 loveolina:

I dare not imagine how many tears and how much sweat it takes to become successful [in gymnastics].

What do you think?


Written by Paul

Paul is an English teacher whose lupine exterior conceals the nature of a real human being. He lives in Chengdu


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