The Secret To Success by Shanghai Sam

Posted by M ws On Monday, August 13, 2012 2 comments
Thanks to reader YK who sent me the following comment which is Shanghai Sam's (a Guardian reader) response to this article London 2012:

China's Ye Shiwen staggered the world – even Ryan Lochte
The 16-year-old prodigy and her compatriot Sun Yang symbolise China's singular approach to talent-spotting

Shanghai Sam's response is a contribution to a comment thread on Comment is Free on The Guardian by a British swimming coach working with the Chinese team, whose identity has been confirmed by the Guardian, on the furore surrounding the swimmer Ye Shiwen. His comment, which was posted on Tuesday 31 July 2012 19.40 BST, has been selected as the Guardian Pick for the post and has also been shared by 110 readers of The Guardian.

If you have the time, please read the main post and as many of the comments as possible.

Comment by Shanghai Sam

I actually am that Brit, although not Head coach, I am in the village with the team. I must say, taking aside the performances for a moment, the vast majority of comments on this (and many other sites I am sure) are riddled with inaccuracies and speculation.

I am certainly not aware of any talent id programme - I am coaching 5 swimmers on this Olympic team and 3 of them I selected myself when they were 13 years old. No-one 'advised' or told me who to select I just used my experience and 'trained eye' to spot the guys I thought would be good.

Chinese athletes train incredibly hard, harder than I can explain in words and as a coach who has placed swimmers on 5 different Olympic Games teams, I have never seen athletes train like this anywhere in the world. They have an unrelenting appetite for hard work, can (and will) endure more pain for longer than their western counterparts, will guarentee to turn up for practice every single time and give their all. They are very proud of their country, they are proud to represent China and have a very team focussed mentaility.

Let's also not forget that this is their only avenue for income; most do not study and sport offers them a way out or a way up from where they and their families currently live in society. If their swimming fails, they fail and the family loses face. This is not an attitude shared by athletes in the west, who - generally speaking - come from comfortable homes with average incomes, 1 or 2 cars per family and 4 weeks or more paid holdays per year. you average Chinese family does not live this way.

I could list countless other differences, but the main point is that these are professional athletes, salaried to train and perform - much in the same way Premier League footballers are paid to perform in England, excpet they train way harder and way longer than these footballers for dar less financial reward.

Many people here are asking me why I have lived in China for 7 years - 3 simple reasons:

1. Facilities - I have access to both 50m and 25m pools in the same building 24 hours per day 7 days per week, there are no NOPs, EOPs, red tape managers, lifeguards, public swim etc getting in the way of my training.

2. Athletes; unlike in the UK (where I worked in both a top University and High Performance Centre) I am able to select any athlete I wish, coach them how I want to, when I want to for as long as I want to. These athletes give me their total attention, time and effort every day.

3. Funding - my athletes are salaried and receive bonuses for performance; I am salaried and receive bonuses for perfomance. We all want performance, not mediocrity, not Sport for All, but GOLD Medals - and they are not afraid to say this. If I want a foreign training camp, money is available; If i want high altitude training - money is available; If I want an assistant coach - money is available; if I want some new gadgets or training equipment, guess what? money is available.

For these, and countless other reasons I am very happy I moved to China; it is the future both financially and in terms of sporting ambition. I am proud to be British, but for myself as a coach, I want to be in a position where I can maximise my ability and realise my potential in my field of employment.

I hope this brief explanation helps to inform the vast majority of the British public out there, who had no idea such vast differences existed. A former well know colleague of mine once said we need to be out of our comfirt zone more often; Well, Chinese athletes do not have a comfort zone; life here is challenging and often uncomfortable and they are now prospering because of it. There will always be 'rogue' individuals in many countries who turn to "The Dark Side" for assistance in training, and many countries have a history of such praactices, but people must realise how far these athletes push themselves EVERY day, how much they sacrifice in terms of living away from home, reduced education opportunities. Simply put the want it more than everyone else.

Enjoy the rest of the Games and "Jia You" Zhong Guo


What we need to see in Malaysia would be sportsmen and sportswomen such as Datuk Lee Chong Wei, Datuk Nicole David and Pandelela Rinong who by sheer grit, discipline and determination reached where they are today and are still pressing on!

May there be committed coaches who will and can be willing to give their all to train our budding sportsmen/women.

Please leave a comment to share your thoughts. Thanks!

2 comments to The Secret To Success by Shanghai Sam

  1. says:

    CLY I was most impressed by their Olympian spirit. Dato LCW was injured during the Thomas Cup. He came back strongly but was denied the gold. Pandelela or lovingly known as Ms Panda by my son, was a fighter, recovered from an early setback to snatch the bronze.
    To me, Ms Heidi Gan was the highlight. Though she did not win a medal, she was carrying the light for the country. She showed that Malaysia could keep up with the rest of the world in the 10 km swim. I watch her swim, stroke for stroke with the leader, in the comfort of my home. She was swimming in a not so pristine water in Hyde Park, a habitat for water fowls, with their droppings making the water foul. Given more support for training and competition, she would surely make it to the top in the next Olympic.

  1. says:

    Taikohtai Thanks for sharing Shanghai Sam. As a ping pong fan and 'estate' player, I marvel at the 'generosity' of China who allows many of their players to take up overseas residence and represent them in the sport. Many are now representing European countries as well as HK and Singapore. Same scenario applies to badminton. But China still reign supreme! Must be their water for sure!

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