Archive for August, 2012

The law of averages

August 6, 2012

It comes as no surprise that the Chinese are absolutely blitzing the competition again in the 2012 London Olympics. Like a good game of football, there’s constant lead changes on the medal tally as the USA and China vie for the number one spot. It will come as no surprise if they do finish on top as they did at the conclusion of the Beijing Olympics. If anything, it’s a trend that’s only going to increase and it wouldn’t surprise me if a few Olympics down the track, they’re just plain not invited! Stay away China, you am take all our medalz!

It’s funny the amount of resentment that seems to hang above the Chinese Olympic success. The immediate explanation seems to be that they’re all drug cheats – none moreso than 16 year old swimmer Ye Shiwen whose time on one leg even beat the world record one of the big bad muscleheaded men. Now whether this young girl is drug enhanced, or just an amazing swimmer is really anybody’s guess – but I don’t know, call me sceptic, but they would have to be some pretty damned miracle drugs to pull off what she’s done. I mean, has she clinically grown propellers in the soles of her feet?

I lived in China during the 2008 Beijing Olympics and had to endure the Chinese broadcasts. I was craving some Australian action, but had to choose between women’s gymnastics, badminton, more women’s gymnastics, diving, women’s gymnastics or table tennis. One evening as I was channel surfing, I came across an Olympic tennis match with Federer playing. Woohoo we said and watched a set..which was promptly then interrupted by an edition of CCTV9’s stupidass news show…which happened to be a repeat episode no less!

When it comes to Chinese cheating, I have no doubt those female gymnasts are underage. To me they looked around the 13 year old mark – and this comes from having taught students anywhere from 11ish to 17ish. I say ‘ish’ because even I am not sure how old they were. In China, when you emerge from your mother, you’re instantly one. If you’re born a week before Chinese New Year, you’re suddenly two – and so on. I got the impression from many of my former students that they literally weren’t sure how old they were. They roughly knew within a year or so.

Getting back to cheating, I feel that it comes down to two things. Firstly, the ‘rest of the world’ seems currently envious (or more realistically jealous) of the rise of China. China is successful – incredibly successful. It’s also completely riddled with problems, both economically, socially and culturally – though there’s no denying it’s on the rise. It’s also likely steamrolling into a future where there are considerable problems, as history has shown, becoming a superpower also tends to label you as a considerable threat.

Anyhow on the other hand, it comes down to the law of averages. Under a communist government – for all its positives or negatives, there is no arguing that they can get things done. With none of the beaurocratic hurdles and barriers being thrown up left right and centre, you have a government that makes decisions and actions them. Success is particularly important to the Chinese as it directly feeds back into the whole national pride effort. Call them what you will but you can’t say the Chinese aren’t patriotic, and whether that is through propaganda or just the result of a country with a turbulent past, most Chinese love China.

So what happens when they smell success? They run with it. With the emergent of stars such as Li Na in the tennis world, suddenly thousands of tennis schools would have appeared all over China. The same applies to every other single discipline – and no longer just the cliché’d Chinese favourites such as table tennis, diving, gymnastics etc. If you’ve been watching the Olympics, you’ll see dominant Chinese appearing in more and more styles of events as they realise they really can clean house.

So what happens when you have literally thousands upon thousands of training centres, with millions of sports people working tirelessly day upon day for those coveted and limited spots? You have an excessive number of over-achievers. In China, you’re either amazing, or you’re one of the crowd. If you then select the very best of those achievers, you’re selecting an elite team – an actual elite team.

I know for a fact that most Australian’s are completely jaded by our medal results in 2012 so far. Many people scoff (well mostly media) – almost offended by the lack of performance. We’re typically strong in the pool and usually haul in the medals, but this year, it’s been all about the silver. For a country with such a small population (20million ish) – we do well proportionately, that’s not in question, but Australian’s are arrogant when it comes to their view on themselves and sports performance against the rest of the world. I would be surprised if most Australian athletes had the same work ethic as the higher level Chinese. Why? Not because Australian’s are inheritantly lazy (ok yes they actually are), but moreso, we’re not competing with a population of over a billion.

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