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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Sports schools losing their grip

(Global Times)

08:59, April 05, 2012

Girls in tears hang from bars on the wall. (Photos: Cai Xianmin/GT)

For the 50 or so children on the gymnastics team at Minhang District Children's Sports School in Shanghai, the most exciting - and toughest - part of their day begins in the afternoon. That's when they start running between pommel horses, vaulting around balance beams and swinging on the uneven bars.

The team, based in the Primary School Affiliated to Shanghai Jiao Tong University, trains children as young as 3 and as old as 8, who dream of becoming one of China's future Olympic champions.

Recently the team has had difficulty recruiting new members, 75 percent of whom come from outside of Shanghai. Many parents enroll their young children with the team because 95 percent of the young gymnasts are also eligible to attend the primary school affiliated with the renowned university.

Thousands of young gymnasts are training in gymnastics schools around China. Many of the schools are also frequently criticized for focusing too intently on children's physical abilities while largely ignoring their academics.

Over the past decade, the number of sports schools had declined by nearly 40 percent. Sports experts say overly intensive training hurts young bodies, but also point out that improvements in China's rural education system has given parents more choices for their children's future.

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