Interesting article on China's rowing program toward Beijing 2008. I highlighted one of the passages I liked below :-)
COUNTDOWN TO BEIJING
China’s Pride: A 24-Karat Olympic Machine
QIANDAO LAKE, China — When Igor Grinko, a former Soviet coach with an impressive résumé, agreed to take over the Chinese rowing team four years ago, Olympic officials outlined their expectations with a simple equation: one gold equals 1,000 silvers.
“Silver? It means nothing here; you might as well finish last,” Grinko said. “Coaches like me come, help them win gold medals, or we are fired.”
In anticipation of China’s debut as an Olympic host, officials here have seized the opportunity to prove their country is a world power in sports. Rowing is at the heart of China’s plan to capture, for the first time, more gold medals than any other nation at the Olympic Games.
Coaches use tests to determine how tall, strong and fast children will be, then place them in appropriate sports. Many athletes who failed in other endurance sports ended up in rowing — whether they liked it or not.
“When they said I should try it, I said, ‘Rowing, what is that?’ ” said Li Tong, 19, a former triathlete from Beijing whose twin sister also rows. Their mother is a retired basketball player, and their father is a retired soldier.
Read the full article on NYTimes.com