Wu Minxia: Chinese Diver’s Parents Hid Family Illness, Deaths from Her

How far would you go to ensure your child's olympic success? Would you drive her to practice every day? Would you never tell her about her mother's eight-year battle with cancer and lie about the death of her grandparents for over a year?

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SIMON BRUTY / SPORTS ILLUSTRATED

Chinese divers Guo Jingjing, left, and Wu Minxia, take flight in the women's synchronized diving competition. The duo won gold in the 3m springboard.

How far would you go to ensure your child’s olympic success? Would you drive her to practice every day? Would you send her to live with a host family in Iowa? Would you never tell her about her mother’s eight-year battle with cancer and lie about the death of her grandparents for over a year?

If that last measure seems a little extreme, you’re in good company. Thousands of Chinese spoke out this week on Sina Weibo, a Chinese micro-blogging website, in condemnation of Wu Minxia’s parents doing just that. Wu — the 26 year-old Chinese diver who just nabbed her third gold on the 3-meter springboard — made history this year when she became the first diver to ever take home the top prize in three consecutive Olympics, but that incredible feat came at a price. Earlier this week, her father revealed to the Shanghai Morning Post that the secrets of her mother’s cancer (now in remission) and her dead grandparents were kept from Wu so she could focus on her training.

(More: Diving: The New Sport for Wunderkinds)

“We never tell her what’s happening at home,” Wu’s father Wu Jueming told the SMP, as translated by the Vancouver Sun. “We even kept the news that her grandparents died from her. When grandma died, [Wu] seemed almost like she had a premonition, and she called us asking if she was okay. We had to lie; we told her, ‘everything’s okay.’”

“It’s been like this for so many years. We long ago realized that our daughter doesn’t belong to us completely. Enjoying the company of family? I don’t think about it. I don’t dare think about it,” he added.

However this definition of parenting may sit with the Chinese public — some have argued online that their Olympic strategy “makes people lose their humanity” and their “national sports system is disgusting” — the end result was an incredibly focused athlete. “We managed to stay composed during the final, and encouraged each other in every dive,” Wu told China’s Xinhua news agency apparently before she found out any of the possibly distressing news.

PHOTOS: The Gold Standard: James Nachtwey Photographs China’s Female Weight Lifters

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