Zhao Yonghua was a Chinese national skiing champion and won several gold medals. But now, at 31, she is bedridden from diabetes, exacerbated by overtraining. With no hope of recovery or employment, the former star finally had to sell one of her gold medals to raise money for treatment. As NPR reports, Zhao is only one of many athletes whose lives have been upended in pursuit of sporting glory.
Of China's 300,000 retired athletes, 80% find themselves jobless, injured, or impoverished. The Chinese government decided in 2007 to dedicate $4 million annually to welfare and vocational training for former professional athletes, but many fear it won't help people like Zhao, whose mother says she will never recover. "Other girls have boyfriends, get married, and bear children—my daughter just lies in bed all day."