Right after Chinese diver Wu Minxia won her third Olympic gold medal, her family decided it was the right time to tell her a long-held family secret: her grandparents are dead.
Wu’s parents decided not to tell her about the death of her grandparents (or her own mother’s years-long battle with breast cancer) until after she had won the 3-meter springboard in London. Their reasoning? They didn’t want to interfere with Minxia’s diving career. “It was essential to tell this white lie,” said her father Wu Yuming.
A little bit you have to understand about Chinese Olympic athletes: they are crazy dedicated. Olympic athletes from China are government-backed, and have a harsh, almost militaristic “win-at-all-costs” mentality. Athletes in China are often taken away from their families at very young ages to train for hours on end. In the case of Wu Minxia, she began diving training at age 6, and left home at 16, bound for a government aquatic training institute, according to Yahoo!News.
Minxia is one of her sport’s shiniest stars, and part of that is thanks to the price paid by her personal life.
“We accepted a long time ago that she doesn’t belong entirely to us,” Wu Yuming told the Shanghai Morning Post. “I don’t even dare to think about things like enjoying family happiness.”
Wu’s mother decided to wait until her breast cancer was in remission before breaking the news to her daughter of her condition. Understandable, I suppose. But her grandparents have both been dead for over a year, and Minxia only just now learned about it.
The story has shifted national attention toward the Chinese government’s athletic practices, particularly with regard to the Olympics, and not in a good way. Seems unimaginable to we on the Western side of civilization, but the Chinese government only publicly congratulates gold medalists through the media – not silver or bronze.
Though we might expect Chinese athletic practices to come under some scrutiny as the 2012 Olympics push forward, their athletes deliver results. It’s not likely anything would change!