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Can China foster another Wang Junxia?

(People's Daily Online)

13:54, November 23, 2012

Wang Junxia (file photo)

Many schools in various Chinese cities such as Wuhan, Xi'an, Chongqing, Beijing, and Shenzhen have canceled two traditional events – the women's 3,000-meter run and men's 5,000-meter run, at their sports meets. In the past, it was a great honor to win a long-distance running event on the annual school sports day.

The two events were canceled mainly because of the steady decline in students' physical conditions, particularly in strength and endurance. Physical education has been marginalized in China's examination-oriented education system, and physical education teachers have to continuously lower their standards. Many students consider themselves physically unable to complete an arduous long-distance run.

More than 1,500 of 20,000 participants of the recent Guangzhou Marathon suffered various symptoms such as dizziness and cramps during the race, and most of the runners who had a tumble or sprain or fainted are aged between 20 and 35. More shockingly, a runner died during the race. At present, the majority of Chinese students are only children who are easily spoiled by their overprotective parents. However, the more protective parents are, the weaker their children tend to be both physically and mentally.
The schools do have reasons to cancel the two events. Long-distance running is a serious test of students' physical strength, and some students suffered a sudden death after crossing the finish line. Therefore, many schools have chosen to “give up eating for fear of choking” because the death of students is too heavy a price to pay. PE teachers have also continuously lowered their standards out of fear that students may get hurt. The cancellation of long-distance races, the best exercise to enhance one's perseverance and physical strength, will accelerate the deterioration of the physical health of today's already weak students, forming a vicious circle.

Many people say that the constitution of the Chinese youngsters is more of a social issue and less of sports. In the choice between high scores but low abilities and versatility, computer addicts and athletes, delicate health and extreme challenge, the existing incentive schemes in our society prefer the former.

Under these training systems, can we turn out 10,000-meter world champions like Wang Junxia? Some may say that is competitive sports. Wang Junxia reached the pinnacle, but in the absence of basic sports skills among the public, reaching the pinnacle would be a practical impossibility. In the year of Beijing Olympic Games, the Ministry of Education, General Administration of Sport, and the Central Committee of the Communist Young League combined forces to hold the long-distance running events among hundreds of millions of students, but the results are unknown.

The transition from autumn to winter provides the golden opportunity to have the fervent heart beat bravely in the chilly morning. It is the good time for the human to challenge the nature and themselves. But the people are greatly upset about whether to embrace the long-distance running.

We begin to think that should the development of sports willpower start from the childhood? Are physical exercises just a matter of several physical education courses? Should the society reach a consensus on strengthening the awareness of sports? Is there any likelihood that the concept of healthy living can be happily rooted in the lifetime?

Read the Chinese version: 还能培养出王军霞吗?

Source:People's Daily Overseas Edition, author: Hong Shen.

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