Chinese Athletes Went Through Hell for Gold

'Project 119' delivered medals at high price
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 26, 2008 5:16 AM CDT
China's Chen Ruolin celebrates after winning the gold medal at the women's 10m platform finals last week.   (AP Photo/Andrew Medichini)
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(Newser) – China topped the gold medal tally at the Beijing Olympics but the road to glory was a tough one for many athletes, the Los Angeles Times reports. Judo gold medalist Xian Dongmei, the only mother in the squad, did not see her 18-month-old daughter for a year before the Games, while 15-year-old diving champ Chen Ruolin was ordered to skip dinner for a year.

China's Soviet-inspired Olympic training system, Project 119, assigned promising young athletes to certain sports to maximize the county's medal count. The Olympic hopefuls were left with little time to see their families, or even to study. The medal count may validate the project, but as athletes begin to balk under the strict regime, China is expected to move to a more open US-style system.