WORLD VOICE: How Far Would You Go For an Olympic Medal?

2014 Lake Macquarie International Children’s Games in December 2014.

2014 Lake Macquarie International Children’s Games in December 2014.

How far would you go for your child to help him/her win a competition? Competitions are meant to establish sportsmanship, confidence and winning spirit, but in China, the idea of competition is taken to another level. With the 2016 Olympics in Rio underway, the idea of how much training is too much, when it involves a chance at qualifying for the Olympics, may give one pause for thought.

A video has been attracting attention that has stirred some controversy of how children are being trained for the Olympics in China. The video depicts children as young as 5 being subjected to harsh exercises which could be seen as being over the top. The children are screamed at, told to hang on pull-up bars for what seems like an interminable amount of time, only to be chastised if they resist or cry. My initial reaction to this video was one of horror. How was this allowed? Why was this considered “training” when to me it seemed like punishment?

The video is below.

My husband and I are familiar with training for a sport since my daughter was a competitive figure skater from ages 5 to 13. We were all new to the sport, but one thing we did know, we were supporting our daughter because she wanted to do this, not us. Her initiation with skating stemmed from seeing Michelle Kwan on a segment of the PBS cartoon show, “Arthur”. She was mesmerized by how beautifully she skated and told us that she wanted to be just like her. She even went so far as to buy a book about Michelle Kwan to read about her life and how she got started with figure skating.

While we wanted to support her wish, we also told her that it involved a lot of hard work. We weren’t trying to discourage her, but we also wanted to make sure that she knew what she needed to do to accomplish her goal. I can say that part of the attraction was being able to wear beautiful outfits for competition, but Shaina would realize how much work was involved in trying to be a competitive figure skater. It wasn’t just the sport that drew her in, it was the beauty of how one’s dream to succeed was a product of hard work and commitment.

Training for figure skating consisted of waking up at 5 AM twice a week to get to the rink at 6 AM and practice with her coach from 6-7:30 AM before school, as well as Saturdays & Sundays from  12:30 PM – 3 PM. Getting up at 5 AM was not always that easy, but my husband and I committed to making it a family affair. That meant waking up with her at 5 AM, being with our daughter during every practice, every competition, massaging every aching back and leg cramps that she experienced for eight years. At the age of 12, her Coach sat us down to discuss her future in this sport; either to go on the Olympic track or continue to compete regionally. While Shaina loved the sport, she knew that being on the Olympic track was not for her.

For the children depicted in this video, the training regimen can be viewed as harsh, if not tortuous by outsiders. Scenes depicted on the video show a child being pulled off the bar or bending one’s back so far over that it could be seen as torture. These children seem to be at a great disadvantage since they can’t fight back, and knowing the sacrifices their parents have made for them, they wouldn’t. The parents of these children place them with these trainers with the hope that their child would be the one of the lucky ones to qualify for the Olympics. It should be noted that this level of training seen on the video may not be the norm in China, but it should give one pause for thought.

The Olympics is a universal symbol of excellence and any child who dreams of achieving a medal resulting from hard work and commitment deserves that chance. Every parent, regardless of race and culture, wants the best for their child and I am not any different. I understand that given the chance, I would do everything I could to help my child achieve her dream, not mine. My hope is that this video will be a reminder that the road to the Olympics is not be about the medals, but the child’s dream of being the best they can be for himself/herself.

This article here has ignited some thought.

This is an original post to World Moms Network by World Mom, Tes Silverman in New York, USA.

Photo Credit: Moetaz Attalla via Wikimedia Commons

Tes Silverman

Tes Silverman was born in Manila, Philippines and has been a New Yorker for over 30 years. Moving from the Philippines to New York opened the doors to the possibility of a life of writing and travel. Before starting a family, she traveled to Iceland, Portugal, Belgium, and France, all the while writing about the people she met through her adventures. After starting a family, she became a freelance writer for publications such as Newsday’s Parents & Children and various local newspapers. Fifteen years ago, she created her blog, The Pinay Perspective. is designed to provide women of all ages and nationalities the space to discuss the similarities and differences on how we view life and the world around us. As a result of her blog, she has written for and has been invited to attend and blog about the Social Good Summit and Mom+Social Good. In addition, she is a World Voice Editor for World Moms Network and was Managing Editor for a local grass roots activism group, ATLI(Action Together Long Island). Currently residing in Virginia Beach, VA with her husband, fourteen year-old Morkie and a three year old Lab Mix, she continues to write stories of women and children who make an impact in their communities and provide them a place to vocalize their passions.

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NEW YORK, USA: Olympic Hopefuls? Probably Not…and That’s OK!

NEW YORK, USA: Olympic Hopefuls? Probably Not…and That’s OK!

As I sit here watching the U.S. Olympic team trials, I am thinking about all the work these hopefuls have put into getting to this amazing place. They are all so young; the gymnasts are 16…mere children! Two of the swimmers competing for the “women’s” 50-free are 14 and 15. Michael Phelps is considered mature – he’s 27!

I smile as a swimmer jumps out of the pool and runs over to hug her mother as she makes the U.S. team. I choke up as the camera pans to a very proud mom who watches her daughter do an amazing floor routine, which seals her fate as a competitor to represent the U.S. in London. As the commercial says, none of them could have gotten to this place without their mothers. It was probably their mom who ran them to the early morning and after school practices, who hugged them when they didn’t win and encouraged them to just do their best. It was their mom who celebrated their victories (I’m sure there were many) as they progressed to get to this amazing point in their career.

I sit here wondering if I would be able to do that for my children. How do you even start your child on the road to be an Olympic hopeful? In New York City, there are so many sports available to children starting at such a young age. My son, who is 5, has already tried  soccer, gymnastics, t-ball, and swimming. He has taken guitar and language lessons, art and music. When he starts Kindergarden in September, he will add martial arts to the list. I keep asking him if he wants to keep doing a certain sport, or try a new one, and inevitably his answer (for the most part) is to try a new one.

They showed some videos of the gymnasts doing routines as 5- and 6-year-olds, which means at my son’s age they were already on the road to the Olympics. I’m not capable of being a mom that “pushes” her children, but how else could they become the best in the world?

Don’t get me wrong. I would be that mom who takes her children to all of the practices, early morning and in the evenings. I would be the one who would console a loss and praise a win, who would mend an injury and be the biggest cheerleader on the sidelines. I just don’t know if I would be able to identify that my child was so gifted in a specific sport that they should seriously compete.

When my son was 3, we joked that he would be the next Michael Phelps. He loved his swim classes, and had a long and lean body. But being in New York, with cold winters, we did not continue his lessons once it got cold out. One thing led to another, and we haven’t really started them up again. I now ask myself, did we miss his chance to realize his full potential?

Now, I’m not expecting my children to make it to the Olympics. What I am asking, is what if there is a sport or activity (dance, a musical instrument, chess club, etc) that they are naturally gifted at, and, as a mother I don’t come across it? How do we, as parents, nurture our children to their full potential if we don’t figure it out?

I know enough to realize that I don’t have the answer.  I want to be able to help my children find their natural abilities; I want them to try everything until they find something that they really love.  And then I hope that I will be able to keep sending them to lessons/practice/rehearsals.  I hope that I can help them be the best that they can be, and help them reach for the stars…if that’s what they want to do.

Have you noticed a natural ability/talent in your child?  How have you nourished and supported them?

This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Maman Aya of New York City, USA.

Photo credit to Andrew Evans. This photo holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

Maman Aya (USA)

Maman Aya is a full-time working mother of 2 beautiful children, a son who is 6 and a daughter who is two. She is raising her children in the high-pressure city of New York within a bilingual and multi-religious home. Aya was born in Canada to a French mother who then swiftly whisked her away to NYC, where she grew up and spent most of her life. She was raised following Jewish traditions and married an Irish Catholic American who doesn’t speak any other language (which did not go over too well with her mother), but who is learning French through his children. Aya enjoys her job but feels “mommy guilt” while at work. She is lucky to have the flexibility to work from home on Thursdays and recently decided to change her schedule to have “mommy Fridays”, but still feels torn about her time away from her babies. Maman Aya is not a writer by any stretch of the imagination, but has been drawn in by the mothers who write for World Moms Blog. She looks forward to joining the team and trying her hand at writing!

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CANADA: Interview with MamaRobinJ (Farewell, Stranger)

CANADA: Interview with MamaRobinJ (Farewell, Stranger)

Where in the world do you live? And, are you from there?

I live in Canada – in Victoria, BC. I’ve lived in Victoria most of my life but was born in Calgary, Alberta, home of the 1988 Winter Olympics and the Calgary Stampede. If you ask me where I’m from, I still say Calgary even though we moved to Victoria when I was 5.

What language(s) do you speak?

English is my first language and I’m fairly fluent in toddlerese. I studied French and German in school, and studied in Germany for a few months as well. (more…)