Her face etched with pain, a child trains for Olympic glory while her gymnastics trainer stands on her legs. The cartoon space rockets and animal astronauts on her tiny red leotard are a stark and powerful reminder of this little girl’s tender age as she trains as hard as any adult athlete in the Western world.
Nanning Gymnasium in Nanning, China, is one of many ruthless training camps across the country to which parents send their children to learn how to be champions.
But while training techniques appear extreme to Western eyes, they provide an insight into why China’s athletes at London 2012 seem so easily able to swim, dive, lift and shoot their way to victory.
Gymnastic stars are known for starting at an incredibly early age, and this group of children appear no different as they battled to complete the demanding routines on bars, rings, and mats.
Boys and girls who looked no older than five or six-years-old were tasked with swinging on beams, hanging from pairs of rings and bounding across floor mats during the physically strenuous training sessions.