From Heroes to Brands

China's sports system, modeled on the Stalinist athletic machine, wasn't designed to celebrate the individual. Many mainland athletes, particularly divers and gymnasts, are plucked from normal life around first grade and deposited into sports schools, where they train up to nine hours a day and spend what little downtime they have imbibing communist propaganda. So it was for Tian Liang and Guo Jingjing, Chinese divers who are favored to win gold medals in Athens. It was the state, after measuring their narrow hips and flexible tendons, that decided the couple would somersault into the water for a living. At the time,...

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