Friday, August 08, 2008

The Olympics - Remembering China (2)


The Olympics start today, so here's a post about sports and Beijing, both of which come together in my gymnastics memories...
Every Saturday morning, my mum would drive us to a gymnastics center in Beijing for a couple of hours' fun. The Chinese teachers were ruthless with their local charges, children from all over the country who trained to be future Olympians - we witnessed their classes sometimes and would see tears dripping silently down tiny little kids' cheeks as they were twisted and forced into all kinds of postures.
With us, the teachers were just adorable and never pushed us hard at all. My sister (lower picture), age , with her flexible yet muscular little body, never one to shy from acrobatics, was a favorite whom the head instructor took care of personally, cheering at her exploits. As for me (top picture), nimble but weak, and struggling with growth spurts at the age of 9, I just had fun and longed for ballet, which I tried to recreate on the beam, my favorite apparatus.

22 comments:

muralimanohar said...

What a neat experience, for you and your sister. And how sad about the other children. :(

mansuetude said...

i see somebody is flying. :)

My Castle in Spain said...

Adorable pics!
Reading your post reminded me of my former gym teacher at college, a Russian lady whom every girl feared as she was very severe and demanding. She saw me as one of her best elements and forced me to stretch my leg until it touched my forehead. Naturally it was painful and i cried. It wasn't a ballet class, but a mere gym class after all !

Have a great day :-)

Jennifer Elaine said...

A perfect 10 !

Anonymous said...

so great that someone was smart enough to document all these amazing moments!!!! i did gymnastics too as a kid...athough i must admit i do regret that i never did ballet....
nancy

tangobaby said...

Wow. Just enchanting and wonderful. I wonder what the ballet schools in China are like? I am sure they are as tough as the gymnastics schools.

How easy was it for you to communicate and learn to speak and read Chinese?

More stories, please!

Tara said...

Thanks for taking a visit to my blog, I just hopped over here and began reading...this blog is great! Such enjoyable reading--nice to meet you!

:0)
Tara

A World in a PAN said...

Sun Wu Kong(s) in action!

Hila said...

Great pictures - although I've always thought there was something wrong about those trainers.

Fifi Flowers said...

How wonderful to have such memories with all your travels.
Hope you enjoyed your time at the Chateau!

Mary-Laure said...

MURALIMANOHAR - yes the training was tough for them and many lived VERY far away from their families...

CASTLE IN SPAIN - totally; I think Russian teachers (in ballet, figureskating, gymnastics etc.) are traditionally super tough. I hope youhave SOME good memories of gymnastics though?

NANCY - I think my mum had a camera surgically grafted to her hand!!!

TANGOBABY - back in those days at least, ballet schools were scarce in Beijing: the focus being on medal-reaping activities, like gymnastics. Even today, the best Asian dancers come from Japan and Korea even if somehave emerged from China lately.

Laura Neulat said...

THibaut, Marie and I look at these pictures with enjoyment! So many souvenirs ...

miss cavendish said...

Lovely photographic memories!

Rina said...

que buenas fotos y recuerdos! y que flexibilidad! admiro mucho a la gente que hace este tipo de cosas, hay que tener tanta disciplina y ser tan fuerte de personalidad para que no te afecte los gritos de los entrenadores...

Mary-Laure said...

TANGO BABY - I forgot to aswer your question about communication with our Chinese coaches.
A lotwas expressedwith gestures and body language, which is fine for sports. They didn't speak a word of any foreign language. I was taking Chinese classes at a Chinese school after my normal school day, so there was moreI could communicate... My mum was also taking Chinese, so she was the mum sho'd arrange averything with the coaches (schedules, number of kids etc), with some occasional tips frommy dad's assistants!

pierre said...

your are just so beautifull.
I love you.

Taocito said...

Gee! That second photo shows such a limber little monkey! It almost scared one of my colleagues here that a human body could bend like that!
May I add that these leotards look particularly.... China circa 1987?

Laura Neulat said...

Mary-Laure watch this slide show ... it looks SO much like the gym where you used to go in Beijing!! What do you think.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=92479526

artycho said...

Thank you for sharing again your memories! Weird to imagine those little kids in tears while you just had fun there! Anyway, I love the pictures!

Imelda Matt said...

I love these tidbits of your amazing life...sorry I haven't posted a comment for a while, I've realized I hadn't feed you into my reader.

karina said...

I adore your blog!
You have an incredible life!!!!

Roxana said...

thanks for visiting my blog, mary-laure!
yes, we had the same situation in romania, more than severe coaches, inhuman disciplin, etc. they've been trying to change this for some time - and now many people say that this is the reason why the girls had such poor results in China.
I enjoyed the old pictures so much :-)