Chinese Athletes Destitute After Glory Days

80% are jobless, injured, or impoverished
By Victoria Floethe,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 23, 2008 8:35 AM CDT
Chinese Athletes Destitute After Glory Days
A young boy practices at the Shichahai Sports School in Beijing. The school is one of thousands in China's state-run sports school system, which aims to groom children into top level athletes.    (AP Photo/Greg Baker)

Zhao Yonghua was a Chinese national skiing champion and won several gold medals. But now, at 31, she is bedridden from diabetes, exacerbated by overtraining. With no hope of recovery or employment, the former star finally had to sell one of her gold medals to raise money for treatment. As NPR reports, Zhao is only one of many athletes whose lives have been upended in pursuit of sporting glory.

Of China's 300,000 retired athletes, 80% find themselves jobless, injured, or impoverished. The Chinese government decided in 2007 to dedicate $4 million annually to welfare and vocational training for former professional athletes, but many fear it won't help people like Zhao, whose mother says she will never recover. "Other girls have boyfriends, get married, and bear children—my daughter just lies in bed all day." (More athlete stories.)

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