The extent of the intensity of the Chinese government's athletic training program is described in an article in Time. "Across the nation, nearly 400,000 young hopefuls in 3,000 sports schools toil to bring glory to their motherland. Most are plucked from elementary school and sent to train at these state-run sports academies before the age of nine regardless of their interest in athletics." Children much younger than the age of nine are taken from their homes with the permission of the parents who are given inducements by the central government. These children remain the "property" of the state and are discouraged from coming home by their own parents who have adopted the national motto, "Failure is not an option."
The extent of the fanaticism of this training is illustrated in another excerpt from the article in Time.
One shudders to think about what we will see 4, 8, or 12 years from now. An army of Chinese athletes indifferent to pain and willing to do anything to their country requires may eventually sweep all the medals in all the sports in the Olympics. It is impossible to calculate the course to the people of that country to achieve this rather dubious goal.
"One by one, the little girls walk to the wooden blocks and extend their legs into the splits, one callused foot balancing on each block, their straining bodies hovering just above the ground. Coach Yang Yaojun, his sweatpants hiked high over his belly, ambles over to the girls, smiles and hands the nearest one a stopwatch. The girls, who are six and seven years old, do not smile back. Teetering on the blocks, they wait as Yang straddles each leg in turn, resting his 70-kg frame on their outstretched limbs. No matter how tough the girls are, no matter how much resolve they have mustered, the tears come within seconds. They do not cry out, though. They just well up soundlessly and stare at the seconds ticking down on the stopwatch. After half a minute, Yang stands up and lifts the girls off the blocks. They stagger with the first step, their oversized thigh muscles visibly twitching. By the second or third step, the tremors and the tears are gone."