Nearly all of Chin'a Olympic athletes come out of the country’s sports boarding schools—a system that depends on the dismal prospects of the country's poor. "A rich person would never let his child do this," the father of Athens gold medalist Chen Yanqing tells the Wall Street Journal. But "if we didn't send her away to sports school, she would have ended up a farmer."
When a coach took note of her athletic ability at age 11, her parents made the difficult decision to send her away to train. If she excelled, she would receive free schooling, and a stipend—enough to raise the standard of living for her family. But the decision took an emotional toll and molded the course of the weightlifter’s life.