(photo courtesy: StickitMedia)Seeking Perfection in China
In 2010 Summer, Nicholas Bock, a devoted gym dad, and his two sons Evan(level 6) and Cameron (level 9) –who train under Coach Guonian Wu- traveled to China and spent 10 days training gymnastics at the ShiChaHai Sports School. see more at Stickitmedia
The school is one of the most famous sports schools in China, producing several Olympic gold medalists in gymnastics, in addition to many other sports. Nicholas thoroughly describes for us what a typical day is like for young Chinese gymnasts, who have been selected to live, study and train at a famous sports school.It is a good read and provided some outsider perspectives on Chinese MAG gymnastics daily training
During the summer, the boys (ages 9-11) will train 7 hours each day, except Sunday (3 1/4 hours in the morning, with a 2-hour break, and another 3 3/4 hours in the afternoon). Here was the schedule, which was exactly the same every dayand even on the gymnastic system:
The entire country works on a type of tiered system, starting at the local level, then state, (regional) and finally national. Periodically, coaches from the higher levels visit gyms and competitions to observe and recruit talent. Once chosen, two things typically happen. First the boys are taken from their homes and they move to state-sponsored sports schools, where they live, study and train. Most of the boys come from underprivileged families, and as such, are provided with a monumental upgrade in living conditions. …. Second, coaches are paid if their gymnast is selected to go to the next level. So every coach is extremely motivated to produce excellent gymnasts. In addition to recruitment bonuses, coaches are paid when their gymnasts earn 1st place in any event or all around at every competition. ... With a motivated gymnast and a motivated coach, progress seems certain.
We can see they still didn’t change the very Chinese “shorts only” MAG training style and even asked the Bock boys followed the same. Some might still remember vividly the debate on the training style when the photos on young Chinese gymnasts training first released about 5-6 years ago. Even with the Bock boys training alongside, it is still a very powerful image to see those devoted nameless boys training so hard.
Pursuit of Perfection Transcends Borders
ShiChaHai's gymnastics program certainly offers one of the best coaching in China. On the WAG side, Ma Yanhong, Kui Yuanyuan, Zhang Nan and He Kexin all trained there before recruited by provincial team and later by national team. This sports school was among one of the first state-sponsored sports schools that opened to foreign application for enrollment. Actually we started to see reports on foreigners training there since 2007. But this is the first American athletes' personal experience I read.
However, Bock didn’t mention in his article that one doesn’t really need the connection of a Chinese world champion like coach Wu Guonian to train in ShiChaHai- you do need that to be able to have dinner with Yang Wei family though. The application for enrollment info can be found here. The Annual tuition for training is about 15,000 dollars, but they do offer short term training programs(less than 3 –month) too. Summer will be the best time as that is the full-time training season (as in no academic courses like during regular terms).
Wu Guonian is boys team head coach at New Hope Gymnastics in Fountain Valley, CA. Some other Chinese former gymnastics world champion and national champion coaches in the States:
Li Xiaoping & Wen Jia - South Coast Gymnastics, Irvine, CA
An interesting clip features both ShiChaHai sports school and Li Xiaoping's Gym.
Li Yujiu & Wu Jiani - Legacy Elite Gymnastics, Carol Stream, IL
Interview regarding their daughter Anna Li.
Liang Chow & Zhuang Liwen - Chow's Gymnastics & Dance Institute, West Des Moines, IA
Lu Li - Emerald City Gymnastics Academy, Redmond, WA
Li Li - Buckeye Gymnastics, Westerville, OH
Zhan Jianhua & Liang Haoquang - Gym Max ,Costa Mesa, CA