Sunday, August 17, 2008

Little Big Dreams

I was watching a documentary on tv tonight titled Little Big Dreams. Osh Osh had just finished watching his Winnie the Pooh DVD. I decided to channel-surf to see if there was any interesting Olympics highlights on. There were none but instead there was this documentary filmed in China following the lives of 4 young children who have been sent to a boarding school to train as gymnasts.

Their parents sent these children there with the hope that their son or daughter will be the next Olympic champion. All their hopes are on this elusive dream but the brutal truth is that only a few will ever make it that far.

The documentary showed that the coaches were very harsh on the kids. One of their methods of encouragement is to cane them if they fail to do the right moves or land steadily on both feet after they complete their dismount off the vaults. The kids, who are eager to please their parents and the coaches, start these rigorous relentless training at the age of 3.

One of the coaches who were interviewed said that they are not torturing the children. It's just that they need to be tough on them in order to make these children Olympic champions.

Three scenes got to me and made me cry.

The first was when a mother had to leave her 5 year old daughter after a 2 day visit at the school. She would not see her daughter again until another 6 months. The girl was very brave and started to walk away from the mother in the courtyard. Then she turned back and saw her mother still standing there. She couldn't compose herself anymore and ran towards her mother, asking her to take her home. The mother made her walk back to the school. She had to, because they had spent a lot of money to put her there and this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.

The second scene was when this 9 year old boy, who hasn't been doing very well in his training and was often scolded and beaten by his coach, had a reunion with his parents about 2 weeks before the provincial gymnastics championship. He didn't want to go back to the school but again, his parents could not let him quit. One of the teachers carried him away from his family, kicking and screaming!

The third scene which really moved me was about another 9 year old boy in the school. They filmed him in his dormitory. He was asked what he wanted to be when he grew up. He said, "A professor". The second question was whether he enjoyed gymnastics. He looked very sad and kept quiet for what might have seemed like an eternity. Then he said softly, "No" and it looked as though he tried very hard not to cry.

I know all parents want what is best for their child but would you actually put your child through this, for the sake of an Olympic gold medal?

You can guess my answer, as I gave Osh Osh more hugs and kisses tonight before he slept.


BinkyBear said...

China is known for treating its individuals as tools to achieve glory for others (in this case, the tools are the children, and the "others" are the parents and the nation). The individual doesn't matter, only the greater good of the country. And they genuinely believe it.

Undoubtedly many children fall by the wayside, and only a tiny minority make it to glory.

Very sad.

Anonymous said...

That is too bad. I wish they would love their children for who they are. If china could love God like they love competition what a world that would be. So sad.