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China's State-Run Sports Schools Train Would-Be Olympic Champions


The Chinese take athletics seriously. As the Olympic games approach, the intensity is obvious at places like Beijing's Shichahai Sports School. The school is one of the few at the top of a nationwide system comprising thousands of state-run sports schools. They train millions of Chinese student athletes. Stephanie Ho reports from the Chinese capital.

Many students at Beijing's Shichahai Sports School dream of winning fame and glory at the Olympics - for themselves and for China.

The vision is shared by 12-year-old Jiang Qifang. She wants to be the first ping pong world champion from the Chinese region of Inner Mongolia. "Hmmm.....give me five or six more years," she said.

China is one of the few countries that still runs state-supported sports schools. Shichahai, founded in 1958, was modeled on the sports schools of the former Soviet Union.

Jiang joined the school when she was 10. She is not the youngest.

In Shichahai's gymnastics program, some students are as young as six years old.

Hard work pays off. In the last 25 years, 32 world champions have been alumni of the school.


Shi Fenghua is the vice principal. "We will certainly have more students from our school in this Olympics than competed last time," Fenghua said.

Room, board and tuition for most of the school's 1,000 students is paid for by China's government. Students take courses in general subjects but they spend most of their time practicing their sport.

Badminton player Zhang Rui is 19 years old.

"I play badminton because I like it very much," Rui said. "Plus, badminton is a kind of national sport, and the level of play in China is very high."

She did not make the Chinese Olympic team this year. But she hopes to join the team going to London in 2012.

Younger students at Shichahai practice their moves while nursing their Olympic fantasies. These may turn out to be not as far-fetched as they seem.

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