There has been significant controversy following Mathew Pinsent’s visit to China and his observations that young Chinese gymnasts were being unfairly treated in pursuit of excellence. This followed his visit to the Shichahai Sports School, a boarding school in Beijing that trains gymnasts. He said:
`I’ve been thinking about it a lot. I was wondering whether it’s a kind of Western approach, compared to an Eastern approach. [But] at the end of the day, I definitely think those kids were being abused.`
So is this a potential issue of `institutionalised` brutality in the pursuit of sporting excellence or an isolated incident? I don’t necessarily think that China should be singled out for its alleged `tactics` in nurturing young talent. In the west, there is a growing trend of over-zealous parents and coaching staff desperately seeking the next Roger Federer? How often in the West do coaches `cross the line` in developing young athletes, especially now that we are moving towards a system of funding linked to success. With the enormous earning potential available to elite athletes, is it any wonder that (sometimes) the emotional and physical development of young people is traded-off in search of that big break.