By Carlos Barria

As the day starts, parents accompany their kids to the Chen Jing Lun Sports School. In the entrance a sign reads, “Today’s sports school student, tomorrow’s Olympics stars” – a reminder of where it’s possible to go with hard work.

A girl with swimming goggles around her forehead waits for training to begin. She muses over portraits of famous Chinese swimmers hanging on the wall. Among them is a portrait of London Olympics double gold medalist Ye Shiwen.


Years ago, at age 6, Ye arrived at this same pool without any swimming experience. But a couple of months later she had mastered the freestyle and the backstroke. “Ye Shiwen never told me that she was tired, or that she didn’t want to swim anymore. She never said that,” her former coach Wei Wei remembers.

In the pool some 20 girls and boys have started their training session, swimming laps endlessly. Although it seems like a hard regime for children just seven and eight years old, they look like they’re having fun. Almost all of them are wearing a swimming cap with the Chinese flag – an early reminder that the ultimate goal here is to make their country proud.

In China, people keep a close watch on the Olympic gold medal tally, paying special attention to their standing versus the United States. After 16-year-old Ye’s powerful performance at the London Aquatic center, where she won two gold medals and broke the world record in 400 meters, controversy erupted over comments by a U.S. coach that suggested Ye was doping.