Article on upbringing of Chinese skater An Xiangyi

Flying Feijoa

On the Ice
Joined
Sep 22, 2019
Messages
459
Country
New-Zealand
Here's part 1 (of 4 :eek:) of my translation of a recent article on An Xiangyi (or rather, her mother mainly...) that was discussed in the Team China thread and has sparked controversy online due to its depiction of what many consider to be a toxic family/training environment. Lunalovesskating has posted a link to the original article along with some other material in Team China's 2019-20 thread, but some posters suggested creating a new thread to draw more attention, so here it is.

By and large, Google Translate is alright, but in a few instances it's very difficult to read/inaccurate, hence why I am exercising my rusty Chinese. I've included a few translation notes (TN). This is a long-winded magazine-style article so please pardon the slow pace... no wonder people have only bothered with rough snippets! Good translation practice, though. Members from Mainland China, feel free to offer input especially on slang specific to your country's fandom, such as 'Face Sister (面姐)'! :laugh:

Original article: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/LzQq035W35eOO3qLFwJRAg

"The girl prodigy and her tiger mother"

For more than 20 years, China as a great sporting nation has produced exactly zero medals in ladies singles figure skating.

During this time, skating fans have been hoping for someone to break this embarrassing record.

In 2019, a 12-year-old girl, An Xiangyi, stormed out of nowhere and won the national senior ladies' title, hence becoming the 'hope of the nation'.

Does An Xiangyi have the best training conditions? The answer is no. The best team? It's hard to say. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that in Zhang Aijun she has a "fanatical" mother who will not give up.


Author: Wu Fenfeng
Editor: Du Qiang
Photography: Li Songshu [TN: maybe a pseudonym - literally 'squirrel']

53-year-old Zhang Aijun watches the rink.

Skates sound as they glide across the ice, then her daughter Nini takes off like a bird. After revolving in the air, instead of landing securely on the ice as intended, she falls. Her slender frame curls as she punches the ice in frustration.

Zhang Aijun's expression is stern and silent. As her daughter skates over to her again, she calls out tightly, "Underrotated lutz and a fall on the toeloop - you didn't prove yourself. You have to prove yourself!" Her sharp voice echoes through the rink. By 'prove yourself' she means 'hold yourself to Olympic standards'. She intends to develop her daughter to become a top international figure skater.

Others on the ice - languid-looking coaches holding sticks, rambunctious children learning to skate, the Zamboni uncle - find nothing remarkable, being used to seeing the intense training of this unusual mother-daughter pair.. However, to people familiar with ice sports, Zhang Aijun's goal is by no means a walk in the park.

In figure skating there's a saying: after piloting, the most difficult profession in the world is figure skating - even more so for those who aim to be at the top. Nonetheless, while Zhang Aijun agrees about the difficulty of skating, she will not be deterred - goals that have been decided on must be followed through with.

Thus, at a time when all mothers in the world would feel the urge to wrap their babies in a peaceful embrace, in 2007, following a U.S. physical fitness curriculum for infants, Zhang Aijun would carry 2-month-old Nini and practice spinning - turning 10 times clockwise then repeating counterclockwise. Regarding the potential effectiveness of this type of training, Zhang Aijun says that those who did so would be able to ride a rollercoaster ten times without getting dizzy.

Throughout her infancy, Nini would receive different types of training from Zhang Aijun each day, including crawling on the ground and revolving with her head downwards. As she got a little older, Zhang Aijun would have Nini stand outside during Level 7 wind [TN: a Chinese meteorological classification] during Beijing's winter. Passersby were curious: what were two children doing standing outside on such a windy day instead of going home?

"One kid was our Nini, and the other was some labourer's child [TN: migrant workers from the countryside, ubiquitous in large Chinese cities] who happened to be out there freezing!" said Zhang Aijun with a chuckle. This was the first stage of her plan to make her daughter world-class.

From Zhang Aijun's perspective, in future her daughter would be competing internationally against Russian and Japanese skaters, and therefore needed a robust physique ("What we're doing is exactly like preparing for war.") Zhang Aijun was satisfied by the results from the fitness training; after continuous progress in load, by 7 years old Nini was able to run 4 kilometres - a sight that would leave others on the athletic grounds gobsmacked.

Determination pays off. In 2019, 12-year-old Nini competed in seniors at Chinese Nationals, becoming the youngest ever champion. Thus, Chinese figure skating finally had a successor to Chen Lu - a girl prodigy with the potential to compete for international medals. Skating fans were instantly smitten with An Xiangyi [TN: Nini is her pet name], creating a fan club and following her every move closely on Tieba [TN: mainland Chinese version of Reddit, sort of...], as well as inevitably worrying for her prospects - China's ladies singles has had a medal drought for more than 20 years, with the best result being Li Zijun's 7th place at the 2013 World Championships.

Ladies' singles skaters not just in China but all over the world live under the shadow of the Russian iron-blooded queen 'Face Sister' a.k.a. Eteri Tutberidze [TN: No idea whatsover why they call her that...], to the point that people say that there are only two teams in ladies' singles: Face Sister's team, and everybody else. Face Sister's girls are tall [TN: Seriously?!] and shockingly powerful, and can do quadruple jumps and outscore male skaters at just 13 years old. At the previous Olympics, they claimed both gold and silver, forcing the ISU to discuss possible rule changes.

This is what 13-year-old An Xiangyi is due to face. Thin, small, still young, but already carrying others' fierce expectations of raising the national flag on the figure skating stage.

Those who care about her cannot avoid asking: Does An Xiangyi have the best training conditions? The answer is no. The best team? It's hard to say. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that in Zhang Aijun she has a "fanatical" mother who will not give up.

To Zhang Aijun, it was only natural to have her daughter learn figure skating, not just because her husband An Longhe is a figure skater, but also because she was already a seasoned figure skating fan before her daughter was born. "I know all the techniques," Zhang Aijun recalled casually with confidence. She believes her knowledge of skating is of an international judging standard.

Zhang Aijun's affinity with skating began when she 'retired'. In 1998, at the age of 31, she had become fed up with her work at a foreign-invested enterprise. When she first began working at the company, Zhang Aijun had been determined to succeed, hoping to manage her own project and be a female leader [TN: this term can be negative if mentioned in a conservative context]. However, reality threw a wrench in the works: all she did every day was pour coffee, pace the carpet, check the weather forecast to confirm what level of typhoon the boss's flight would encounter and so on. Even worse, the company gave her no say in project direction. Later, Zhang Aijun noticed that many people were being made redundant across departments, prompting further misgivings about her situation.

Still, there were some positives, such as the fact that she became slimmer due to the heavy workload and thus finally had the self-confidence to wear dresses like other women and feel attractive 'like Madonna'. But this joy wasn't enough. "Without direction, I couldn't stay in the company - I had to succeed", Zhang Aijun said. "My life is finite."

In 1993, at a banquet at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, Zhang Aijun asked an old American lady, "Could you tell me what the most important age for a woman is?"

After that, Zhang Aijun quit her job. She took up figure skate recreationally with acquaintances, as skating made her feel free. At the same time, aspiration to succeed continued to accompany her, only this time, she desired to excel within her circle [TN: the local adult skating community, I assume]. During this period, she would arrive at the rink at 8 am and return home around 10 pm. Early in the morning there were no people, and the security personnel would clap encouragingly for her. She even had an abortion in order to continue skating, and as wished, finally taught herself five single jumps. [TN: Apologies - I originally thought it was miscarriage based on inaccurate comments in the Reddit thread. '流产/liu2chan3' may refer to either abortion or miscarriage, but the source material is clear in this regard.]

Still she believed that nothing was impossible for her, even walking out of the abortion theatre wearing high heels, holding her head proudly to signify as proof that she was able to handle this matter on her own. However, Zhang Aijun's certainty was suddenly shattered by a fall on a camel spin, which almost fractured the right side of her face, after which she never dared to go on the ice again. After this, she devoted her efforts to organising videos of figure skating competitions, studying the movements of the skaters and judges' comments and gradually becoming an unofficial figure skating expert.

After the abortion, conception became difficult and she had two failed two rounds of IVF before finally succeeding in 2006 at the age of 38. Zhang Aijun would come to regard 38 as the most important age in her life, seemingly corroborating the old American lady's answer to her from years ago, though not perfectly - she had told her that day that the most important age was 39 years.

At first, Zhang Aijun thought that the baby was going to be a boy. She thought: male skaters have it easy. Unlike girls, growth and puberty brings benefits to boys' physical ability, and they deal better with the changes to their bodies. But on Christmas Eve 2006, Zhang Aijun was greeted by a plump, thick-haired little girl.

At first, she named Nini 'An Yibing' [TN: 冰/bing1 = ice], hoping that her daughter wuold like to skate. Later, the fortune-teller said this name was unlucky, as ice is frigid, so Zhang Aijun changed her daughter's name to 'An Xiangyi' - she chose 'Xiang' because it is found in the names of many top ladies skaters, such as Yuka Sato or Shizuka Arakawa [TN: 香/xiang1 in Mandarin Chinese can be pronounced 'ka' in Japanese and means 'fragrance' in both languages. Side note: Japanese 'ka' can be written with different characters/meanings, e.g. the 'ka' of Rika Kihira is '花’ i.e. 'flower'.]

[TN: It's a traditional practice to consult fortune-tellers and amend names to bring luck or ward off misfortune - e.g. my father's family made him change a character in his name, even though he was already a teenager at the time.]

The plans for her daughter's skating life began even before she was born. While pregnant, Zhang Aijun would edit skating music - looking on, husband An Longhe remarked that she was nutty for editing skating music when their kid hadn't even been born yet. After Nini was born, to pre-emptively avoid any future accusations of age falsification, Zhang Aijun mentioned her date of birth on YouTube - she was determined for that sort of shame not to befall her daughter. [TN: YouTube is banned in China, so the implication is that by providing early evidence for the date of birth on a platform for international viewers, it could prevent foreign sporting bodies from disqualifying Nini under false charges of being underage.]

To be continued... (if you like)
 

Dr. Jenn

Medalist
Joined
Jan 10, 2014
Messages
1,456
Here's part 1 (of 4 :eek:) of my translation of a recent article on An Xiangyi (or rather, her mother mainly...) that was discussed in the Team China thread and has sparked controversy online due to its depiction of what many consider to be a toxic family/training environment. Lunalovesskating has posted a link to the original article along with some other material in Team China's 2019-20 thread, but some posters suggested creating a new thread to draw more attention, so here it is.

By and large, Google Translate is alright, but in a few instances it's very difficult to read/inaccurate, hence why I am exercising my rusty Chinese. I've included a few translation notes (TN). This is a long-winded magazine-style article so please pardon the slow pace... no wonder people have only bothered with rough snippets! Good translation practice, though. Members from Mainland China, feel free to offer input especially on slang specific to your country's fandom, such as 'Face Sister (面姐)'! :laugh:

Original article: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/LzQq035W35eOO3qLFwJRAg

"The girl prodigy and her tiger mother"

For more than 20 years, China as a great sporting nation has produced exactly zero medals in ladies singles figure skating.

During this time, skating fans have been hoping for someone to break this embarrassing record.

In 2019, a 12-year-old girl, An Xiangyi, stormed out of nowhere and won the national senior ladies' title, hence becoming the 'hope of the nation'.

Does An Xiangyi have the best training conditions? The answer is no. The best team? It's hard to say. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that in Zhang Aijun she has a "fanatical" mother who will not give up.


Author: Wu Fenfeng
Editor: Du Qiang
Photography: Li Songshu [TN: maybe a pseudonym - literally 'squirrel']

53-year-old Zhang Aijun watches the rink.

Skates sound as they glide across the ice, then her daughter Nini takes off like a bird. After revolving in the air, instead of landing securely on the ice as intended, she falls. Her slender frame curls as she punches the ice in frustration.

Zhang Aijun's expression is stern and silent. As her daughter skates over to her again, she calls out tightly, "Underrotated lutz and a fall on the toeloop - you didn't prove yourself. You have to prove yourself!" Her sharp voice echoes through the rink. By 'prove yourself' she means 'hold yourself to Olympic standards'. She intends to develop her daughter to become a top international figure skater.

Others on the ice - languid-looking coaches holding sticks, rambunctious children learning to skate, the Zamboni uncle - find nothing remarkable, being used to seeing the intense training of this unusual mother-daughter pair.. However, to people familiar with ice sports, Zhang Aijun's goal is by no means a walk in the park.

In figure skating there's a saying: after piloting, the most difficult profession in the world is figure skating - even more so for those who aim to be at the top. Nonetheless, while Zhang Aijun agrees about the difficulty of skating, she will not be deterred - goals that have been decided on must be followed through with.

Thus, at a time when all mothers in the world would feel the urge to wrap their babies in a peaceful embrace, in 2007, following a U.S. physical fitness curriculum for infants, Zhang Aijun would carry 2-month-old Nini and practice spinning - turning 10 times clockwise then repeating counterclockwise. Regarding the potential effectiveness of this type of training, Zhang Aijun says that those who did so would be able to ride a rollercoaster ten times without getting dizzy.

Throughout her infancy, Nini would receive different types of training from Zhang Aijun each day, including crawling on the ground and revolving with her head downwards. As she got a little older, Zhang Aijun would have Nini stand outside during Level 7 wind [TN: a Chinese meteorological classification] during Beijing's winter. Passersby were curious: what were two children doing standing outside on such a windy day instead of going home?

"One kid was our Nini, and the other was some labourer's child [TN: migrant workers from the countryside, ubiquitous in large Chinese cities] who happened to be out there freezing!" said Zhang Aijun with a chuckle. This was the first stage of her plan to make her daughter world-class.

From Zhang Aijun's perspective, in future her daughter would be competing internationally against Russian and Japanese skaters, and therefore needed a robust physique ("What we're doing is exactly like preparing for war.") Zhang Aijun was satisfied by the results from the fitness training; after continuous progress in load, by 7 years old Nini was able to run 4 kilometres - a sight that would leave others on the athletic grounds gobsmacked.

Determination pays off. In 2019, 12-year-old Nini competed in seniors at Chinese Nationals, becoming the youngest ever champion. Thus, Chinese figure skating finally had a successor to Chen Lu - a girl prodigy with the potential to compete for international medals. Skating fans were instantly smitten with An Xiangyi [TN: Nini is her pet name], creating a fan club and following her every move closely on Tieba [TN: mainland Chinese version of Reddit, sort of...], as well as inevitably worrying for her prospects - China's ladies singles has had a medal drought for more than 20 years, with the best result being Li Zijun's 7th place at the 2013 World Championships.

Ladies' singles skaters not just in China but all over the world live under the shadow of the Russian iron-blooded queen 'Face Sister' a.k.a. Eteri Tutberidze [TN: No idea whatsover why they call her that...], to the point that people say that there are only two teams in ladies' singles: Face Sister's team, and everybody else. Face Sister's girls are tall [TN: Seriously?!] and shockingly powerful, and can do quadruple jumps and outscore male skaters at just 13 years old. At the previous Olympics, they claimed both gold and silver, forcing the ISU to discuss possible rule changes.

This is what 13-year-old An Xiangyi is due to face. Thin, small, still young, but already carrying others' fierce expectations of raising the national flag on the figure skating stage.

Those who care about her cannot avoid asking: Does An Xiangyi have the best training conditions? The answer is no. The best team? It's hard to say. The only thing that can be said with certainty is that in Zhang Aijun she has a "fanatical" mother who will not give up.

To Zhang Aijun, it was only natural to have her daughter learn figure skating, not just because her husband An Longhe is a figure skater, but also because she was already a seasoned figure skating fan before her daughter was born. "I know all the techniques," Zhang Aijun recalled casually with confidence. She believes her knowledge of skating is of an international judging standard.

Zhang Aijun's affinity with skating began when she 'retired'. In 1998, at the age of 31, she had become fed up with her work at a foreign-invested enterprise. When she first began working at the company, Zhang Aijun had been determined to succeed, hoping to manage her own project and be a female leader [TN: this term can be negative if mentioned in a conservative context]. However, reality threw a wrench in the works: all she did every day was pour coffee, pace the carpet, check the weather forecast to confirm what level of typhoon the boss's flight would encounter and so on. Even worse, the company gave her no say in project direction. Later, Zhang Aijun noticed that many people were being made redundant across departments, prompting further misgivings about her situation.

Still, there were some positives, such as the fact that she became slimmer due to the heavy workload and thus finally had the self-confidence to wear dresses like other women and feel attractive 'like Madonna'. But this joy wasn't enough. "Without direction, I couldn't stay in the company - I had to succeed", Zhang Aijun said. "My life is finite."

In 1993, at a banquet at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse, Zhang Aijun asked an old American lady, "Could you tell me what the most important age for a woman is?"

After that, Zhang Aijun quit her job. She took up figure skate recreationally with acquaintances, as skating made her feel free. At the same time, aspiration to succeed continued to accompany her, only this time, she desired to excel within her circle [TN: the local adult skating community, I assume]. During this period, she would arrive at the rink at 8 am and return home around 10 pm. Early in the morning there were no people, and the security personnel would clap encouragingly for her. She even had an abortion in order to continue skating, and as wished, finally taught herself five single jumps. [TN: Apologies - I originally thought it was miscarriage based on inaccurate comments in the Reddit thread. '流产/liu2chan3' may refer to either abortion or miscarriage, but the source material is clear in this regard.]

Still she believed that nothing was impossible for her, even walking out of the abortion theatre wearing high heels, holding her head proudly to signify as proof that she was able to handle this matter on her own. However, Zhang Aijun's certainty was suddenly shattered by a fall on a camel spin, which almost fractured the right side of her face, after which she never dared to go on the ice again. After this, she devoted her efforts to organising videos of figure skating competitions, studying the movements of the skaters and judges' comments and gradually becoming an unofficial figure skating expert.

After the abortion, conception became difficult and she had two failed two rounds of IVF before finally succeeding in 2006 at the age of 38. Zhang Aijun would come to regard 38 as the most important age in her life, seemingly corroborating the old American lady's answer to her from years ago, though not perfectly - she had told her that day that the most important age was 39 years.

At first, Zhang Aijun thought that the baby was going to be a boy. She thought: male skaters have it easy. Unlike girls, growth and puberty brings benefits to boys' physical ability, and they deal better with the changes to their bodies. But on Christmas Eve 2006, Zhang Aijun was greeted by a plump, thick-haired little girl.

At first, she named Nini 'An Yibing' [TN: 冰/bing1 = ice], hoping that her daughter wuold like to skate. Later, the fortune-teller said this name was unlucky, as ice is frigid, so Zhang Aijun changed her daughter's name to 'An Xiangyi' - she chose 'Xiang' because it is found in the names of many top ladies skaters, such as Yuka Sato or Shizuka Arakawa [TN: 香/xiang1 in Mandarin Chinese can be pronounced 'ka' in Japanese and means 'fragrance' in both languages. Side note: Japanese 'ka' can be written with different characters/meanings, e.g. the 'ka' of Rika Kihira is '花’ i.e. 'flower'.]

[TN: It's a traditional practice to consult fortune-tellers and amend names to bring luck or ward off misfortune - e.g. my father's family made him change a character in his name, even though he was already a teenager at the time.]

The plans for her daughter's skating life began even before she was born. While pregnant, Zhang Aijun would edit skating music - looking on, husband An Longhe remarked that she was nutty for editing skating music when their kid hadn't even been born yet. After Nini was born, to pre-emptively avoid any future accusations of age falsification, Zhang Aijun mentioned her date of birth on YouTube - she was determined for that sort of shame not to befall her daughter. [TN: YouTube is banned in China, so the implication is that by providing early evidence for the date of birth on a platform for international viewers, it could prevent foreign sporting bodies from disqualifying Nini under false charges of being underage.]

To be continued... (if you like)

Thank you for the translation. It's very interesting so far!
 

GarthAqua

On the Ice
Joined
Feb 14, 2018
Messages
158
By and large, Google Translate is alright, but in a few instances it's very difficult to read/inaccurate, hence why I am exercising my rusty Chinese. I've included a few translation notes (TN). This is a long-winded magazine-style article so please pardon the slow pace... no wonder people have only bothered with rough snippets! Good translation practice, though. Members from Mainland China, feel free to offer input especially on slang specific to your country's fandom, such as 'Face Sister (面姐)'! :laugh:


Eteri is called "Instant Noodle Sister (方便)面姐" because of her hairstyle. The nicknames in Chinese can be fun and mean at the same time.
 

GarthAqua

On the Ice
Joined
Feb 14, 2018
Messages
158
The article itself gaves a very wired view with bias. It's almost accusing child abuse from the report.

I've seen Nini training alone once and she kept doing 3Lz for about one hour without her mom at the rink. She herself is very hardworking.

Her mom is also known for being very strict which is not news for Chinese fans. But this article showed some mental issues about her and brought concerns among fans.

Personally, I have my doubts on this report. Hope Nini can have a happy and healthy life.
 

nussnacker

one and only
Record Breaker
Joined
Mar 16, 2019
Messages
2,553
Eteri is called "Instant Noodle Sister (方便)面姐" because of her hairstyle. The nicknames in Chinese can be fun and mean at the same time.

Justin Timberlake is still reminded about his 90s hairstyle on the regular ... This one will probably stick for a long time :D
 

CanadianSkaterGuy

Record Breaker
Joined
Jan 25, 2013
Messages
12,545
The article (dramatic as it is) is wrong about Chinese ladies producing exactly zero medals in figure skating for over 20 years. Sure, none at Worlds, but Zijun Li won bronze at the 2014 Four Continents, which I'd say is notable being an ISU championships.

Nini has a lot of pressure on her, but unless she gets a 3A or quad, she will be a non factor in the Beijing Olympics, podium-wise - even if she is a star in the making. Her PCS also has a lot to be desired and her jumps aren't particularly smooth at this point (although the progress is astounding)

At some point, she will start losing and I hope that her mother is ready for that and doesn't take it out on Nini. While crazy, it is astounding that her mom literally said "I'm going to have an elite skater" and literally made it happen, as terrible as it was the cost. She might get her wish of vicariously living through a daughter who makes it to the Olympics, but the toll it takes on Nini could be very damaging.
 

macy

you should see her in a crown
Record Breaker
Joined
Nov 12, 2011
Messages
2,502
The article (dramatic as it is) is wrong about Chinese ladies producing exactly zero medals in figure skating for over 20 years. Sure, none at Worlds, but Zijun Li won bronze at the 2014 Four Continents, which I'd say is notable being an ISU championships.

Nini has a lot of pressure on her, but unless she gets a 3A or quad, she will be a non factor in the Beijing Olympics, podium-wise - even if she is a star in the making. Her PCS also has a lot to be desired and her jumps aren't particularly smooth at this point (although the progress is astounding)

At some point, she will start losing and I hope that her mother is ready for that and doesn't take it out on Nini. While crazy, it is astounding that her mom literally said "I'm going to have an elite skater" and literally made it happen, as terrible as it was the cost. She might get her wish of vicariously living through a daughter who makes it to the Olympics, but the toll it takes on Nini could be very damaging.

she isn't even age eligible for Beijing.

if anything in that article has an ounce of truth to it, i fear her body would break down way before she gets a shot at the olympics. again if true, it doesn't sound like her mom cares about her well being at all, as long as she has an elite skater at her daughter's cost. i'm very afraid for the mental and physical price she will have to pay for the rest of her life.
 

lilahozi

Record Breaker
Joined
Dec 6, 2013
Messages
3,470
The article itself gaves a very wired view with bias. It's almost accusing child abuse from the report.

I've seen Nini training alone once and she kept doing 3Lz for about one hour without her mom at the rink. She herself is very hardworking.

Her mom is also known for being very strict which is not news for Chinese fans. But this article showed some mental issues about her and brought concerns among fans.

Personally, I have my doubts on this report. Hope Nini can have a happy and healthy life.

It's not accusing. It IS child abuse. The article caused a ruckus on Weibo and the Chinese interwebz. Nini's mom is crazy.
 

nussnacker

one and only
Record Breaker
Joined
Mar 16, 2019
Messages
2,553
The article (dramatic as it is) is wrong about Chinese ladies producing exactly zero medals in figure skating for over 20 years. Sure, none at Worlds, but Zijun Li won bronze at the 2014 Four Continents, which I'd say is notable being an ISU championships.

Nini has a lot of pressure on her, but unless she gets a 3A or quad, she will be a non factor in the Beijing Olympics, podium-wise - even if she is a star in the making. Her PCS also has a lot to be desired and her jumps aren't particularly smooth at this point (although the progress is astounding)

At some point, she will start losing and I hope that her mother is ready for that and doesn't take it out on Nini. While crazy, it is astounding that her mom literally said "I'm going to have an elite skater" and literally made it happen, as terrible as it was the cost. She might get her wish of vicariously living through a daughter who makes it to the Olympics, but the toll it takes on Nini could be very damaging.

From the other parts of the article it seems like every loss or even every negative comment made, her mother takes out on Nini. She made her „train to death“ because someone made a negative comment online. Putting it very lightly, she might not handle any criticism well. I’m waiting for another part of the article to be translated and praying it was a mistranslation and sounds different in Chinese. :-/

The fact that she was editing her program music while being pregnant just ... I don’t know I’ve never heard anything like this before...
Training a baby for spinning at 2 months and making her stay in cold as a toddler is just mental.
If all of that is true, this child never had a second of proper childhood.
 

Tolstoj

Record Breaker
Joined
Nov 21, 2015
Messages
3,623
she isn't even age eligible for Beijing.

if anything in that article has an ounce of truth to it, i fear her body would break down way before she gets a shot at the olympics. again if true, it doesn't sound like her mom cares about her well being at all, as long as she has an elite skater at her daughter's cost. i'm very afraid for the mental and physical price she will have to pay for the rest of her life.

I'm surprised they didn't try to cheat on the age, maybe they didn't believe in her at first but she was in the documentary for the bid.

On the mom, it is a lot and it is intense but to be honest i don't think this is news for figure skating general, i bet many russian parents must be a bit that way when they send their kids to Tutberidze, extremely focused on their goals.

On the skater, i think she is lovely, you can tell her programs are choreographed by Benoit Richaud, you can recognize many of his signature moves. If i was her mom, i'd try to send her to Laura Lipetsky in US, but that's a big journey, not sure if they can afford it (they could afford Benoit programs tho, maybe chinese fed could help on that).

At some point they'll have to recognize she'll need the best working conditions if the goal is to match and/or beat Eteri skaters.
 

Lunalovesskating

Moonbear power 🐻
Record Breaker
Joined
Jul 3, 2018
Messages
3,721
I'm surprised they didn't try to cheat on the age, maybe they didn't believe in her at first but she was in the documentary for the bid.
Nini's mom published Nini's birthdate on YouTube immediately after Nini's birth, because she never wanted Nini to be accused of faking her age, as she thought it to be shameful.
 

icybear

Medalist
Joined
Mar 18, 2017
Messages
1,055
I'm surprised they didn't try to cheat on the age, maybe they didn't believe in her at first but she was in the documentary for the bid.

Did you base that on the false generalization that Chinese athletes frequently fake their ages?
 

nussnacker

one and only
Record Breaker
Joined
Mar 16, 2019
Messages
2,553
I'm surprised they didn't try to cheat on the age, maybe they didn't believe in her at first but she was in the documentary for the bid.

On the mom, it is a lot and it is intense but to be honest i don't think this is news for figure skating general, i bet many russian parents must be a bit that way when they send their kids to Tutberidze, extremely focused on their goals.

On the skater, i think she is lovely, you can tell her programs are choreographed by Benoit Richaud, you can recognize many of his signature moves. If i was her mom, i'd try to send her to Laura Lipetsky in US, but that's a big journey, not sure if they can afford it (they could afford Benoit programs tho, maybe chinese fed could help on that).

At some point they'll have to recognize she'll need the best working conditions if the goal is to match and/or beat Eteri skaters.

Actually, I’d say that’s quite the opposite.
Anna’s parents didn’t want her to pursue skating at all, neither did Alina’s, as Alina’s mom tried to put her into gymnastics at some point.
Both had to persuade their parents to go to a Tutberidze trials, Alina as far as I remember begged her mom to go to Tutberidze. When Tutberidze accepted her back, Alina said she jumped with joy.
Sasha wanted to go to Eteri at her own will too.
Aliona I believe said she would either try to make it to Eteri’s group or she would stop skating overall (not sure it’s was formulated like that, but you get the gist). So doesn’t look like she’s forced by her mom, more like she makes her own decisions on this.
Elizabet asked her mom to call Eteri and wanted to go back to Eteri ever since switching to Brian, even had dreams about Eteri. While Elizabet’s mom was always worried about her kid pursuing elite athlete career.
Daniil S. also said he wanted very badly to make it to Eteri.

More often than not, the incentive comes from the kids themselves, with parents actually trying to even pull them back sometimes from elite training overall. The desire to train with Eteri seems to come from kids themselves as well.

Actually, Nini’s mom I believe said in this very article they wanted to be coached by Eteri, but Eteri refused since the mom is “too intense”.
 

Tolstoj

Record Breaker
Joined
Nov 21, 2015
Messages
3,623
Did you base that on the false generalization that Chinese athletes frequently fake their ages?

Chinese sports ministry admitted in 2009 they found 15 000 chinese youth athletes misrepresenting their age, with evidences that at least 3 000 of them were indeed older.

https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2009/mar/11/china-athletes-age-fakes-sport

Obviously there is the whole controversy on He Kexin in 2008 although it was never proved, but really that's something we've seen in the past from former Karoly's athletes for example, but even in other occasions when you want to be eligible for the Olympics in your home country but you barely missed it.

So not a generalization i'd say.

That's quite honorable from the mother if she really thinks that's shameful.
 

Flying Feijoa

On the Ice
Joined
Sep 22, 2019
Messages
459
Country
New-Zealand
Part 2: (More about Nini's training, plus and a surprisingly large amount about her mother's childhood)

[TN: Just a word of warning about strong (censored) language plus some details which might be a bit triggering. On the other hand, Ms Zhang's bizarre explanations of her parenting approach veer towards the farcical (e.g. shooting off random references to self-castration and a warlord-era democracy advocate). Morbidly fascinating.]


As a new mother, Zhang Aijun at first had a mortal fear of losing her daughter. She was a beautiful child. "She looked so lovely as the moonlight shone on her." For a time, Zhang Aijun would think at least once a day, "How would I live if this child died?"

To learn what the experience of losing a child might be like, every day she read from the website of "Starry Harbour" (a charity that provides psychological support for bereaved parents/families), crying as she did so. However, this mood did not cause her to go easy on training her daughter. After completing her infanthood physical preparation, Nini went on the ice for the first time at 2 and a half years old. Zhang Aijun knew not to delay, since to be a professional skater one must begin between 3 to 6 years old - any later and the feeling for the ice would not develop.

The first time Nini skated was at Haotai Rink in Gaobeidian. Subsequently, she roved between various rinks in Beijing like a little bee: Wucaicheng, Dayuecheng, Qidi... However, shopping mall ice rinks are like playgrounds - nobody would be like Nini, preparing for serious skating competitions. Every afternoon the malls would become packed with people, forcing Zhang Aijun and An Longhe to take Nini and search for other places. Or else, the infrastructure would be old and run-down, for example obsolete refrigeration systems that, once broken, remained unrepaired for weeks on end, eternally interfering with Nini's already-limited training time.

If there really wasn't a session scheduled, Zhang Aijun would take Nini along and negotiate for ice. She would bribe the old uncle who resurfaced the ice with gifts, pleading with him to covertly turn on the rink's lights while his boss was away, to which he would often silently acquiesce. Still, at times he would scold her instead, "Scram!" This was not enough to deter Zhang Aijun, who was determined to get ice time for her daughter at all costs - axe-breaking, boat-burning courage had already become a habit for her. [TN: the proverb refers to soldiers who destroy their means of retreat/subsistence to force themselves to fight to the end - like the English 'burning bridges', but not quite.]

"I was already a bloody notorious woman by then!" says Zhang Aijun as she sits in on Nini's dance classes, reminiscing about an incident from Nini's early childhood. Around 5 or 6 years old, Nini was practising 8 hours a day. As time went by, rink regulars' tongues started wagging: "This child skates all day and never goes to school, she's growing on the ice!" [TN: either means growing up on the ice, or becoming permanently rooted on it like a plant growing on the earth.] They saw Zhang Aijun as a madwoman and an idler, otherwise what mother would let her child skate around all day instead of going to school? Others mocked: "No need to watch, the girl will be crippled by next year!" "An Xiangyi, if you practice like this, you'll be carried off in a stretcher in three days!"

Zhang Aijun maintains an intensity like that of military training. Thus, when people refer to mothers with strict demands of their children as 'tiger mums', she regards this as an overused stereotype [TN: I think 'chicken soup' is Chinese internet jargon for 'bandied about to the extent that it's meaningless', but am not sure.] She prefers the term 'officer' for herself. "Not in the sense of throwing grenades at her and ordering her to charge, I mean rather in the sense of being a commander. It's a bit like learning the Sunflower Manual, in that I sacrifice my motherly role in order to push this child forward." [TN: The Sunflower Manual is a reference from the 1960s wuxia novel "The Smiling Proud Wanderer", referring to a martial art that is powerful yet dangerous, and requires self-castration before it can be trained. Here she literally said she had castrated herself for her child's sake, so I interpreted it as a metaphor for sacrificing one's dignity/traditional gender role...]

This winter, Zhang Aijun is always wearing a pair of baggy black down pants, thick enough to help her withstand the cold of the rink. Zhang Aijun wears it like an army uniform. "I can at any time shout, laugh, show wrath, kick or hit her. Everything is under my control - it's extreme personality training." Just like that day, when Zhang Aijun increased Nini's programme runthroughs from 3 to 5 times, because she sensed that Nini was being reluctant.

"Go - five times! You must practice whether you want to or not!" Zhang Aijun shouted towards Nini. Though she knows that her child is not a machine and will put up a fight, Zhang Aijun's approach is that if her daughter shows displeasure at the training arrangements, she will increase this type of training. "It's how an officer trains the mindset of new recruits."

Nini mutters quietly, skating aimlessly back and forth on the rink. When Zhang Aijun notices, she raises her head, shouting again: "Cut the crap... always trying to be lazy... spin! [TN: literally 'revolve', may refer to jumps instead.] And after f***ing being done spinning, not even one successful attempt!" [TN: I'm not familiar with foul Chinese language as my dad is quite polite, sorry if this is inaccurate.]

Zhang Aijun had already begun this approach by the time Nini was 5 or 6 years old. "I controlled things very well," she said. "She was not allowed to cry... Every evening after 5 hours of training in the mall, I'd reward her with food, buy things for her such as books, let her freely download iPhone apps... basically, childhood development as usual." Zhang Aijun calls this a "U.S.-style upbringing".

Zhang Aijun became 'obsessed' with organising Nini's upbringing. "I felt the urge to train her to perfection. Everyone's like this - it's like an inquest, the deeper you go the more exciting it gets." She compares herself to Hu Shi's mother Feng Shundi. "The reason why Hu Shi was such a great person was because he had a great mother... I hit her because this is my duty towards society." [TN: Hu Shi was a literature professor and politician in post-Empire/pre-Communist China. He ended up fleeing with the Nationalists to Taiwan after the Civil War. I think she's just randomly name-dropping by this point.]

Presently, Zhang Aijun gives Nini another directive: "No matter how hard you might fall, all the moves must be done properly down to your fingertips." By this she doesn't mean to exert mechanical force through the fingertips, but rather to maintain a balletic attention to artistry. Thus, while skating, Nini needs to always arch her feet and point her ankles, letting movement extend through the knees and pelvis, up the spine and waist to reach the upper extremities and project beyond. This is where figure skating differs from other competitive sports; it is not about raw bursts of power but rather a combination jumps, spins, footwork and other diverse movements, and demands of athletes great physical, dance and musical ability.

The intense training finally began paying off when Nini was 5 years old. She won the children's group A event at a local skating competition, which was her first Olympics. [TN: Metaphorically.] After this, Nini gradually became the centre of attention - "the nation's hope" or "Chen Lu's successor", as netizens said after watching her at competitions.

At 11, Nini debuted in the senior division at skating competitions and in 2019 alone won three such events. However, for an 11-year-old to step on the ice as a senior competitor and skate to something like 'La La Land', she is obliged to draw upon her imitation skills [TN: for artistry/interpretation] and devote constant effort in training towards minimising the junior-ish qualities of her skating.

In 2014, after Nini competed at an all-Beijing skating competition, Zhang Aijun saw a comment: An Xiangyi has nothing apart from spins. "I bloody well couldn't accept that, could I?" Zhang Aijun said. "At 5 years old she jumps single axels and wins numerous championships, so what's the basis for saying that?!"

That night, Zhang Aijun sifted through the internet for more such comments, collecting them as she went through, getting angrier the more she read. She started putting 5 times more effort into training. There was a day when Nini trained for 12 hours "until she had a fever," Zhang Aijun said. "That time I had gone mad - the more criticism Nini received, the more I trained her, because I'm the sort of person who will not be defeated - I can't bear defeat, not even by a hair. I must have face [TN: roughly means to avoid shame/embarrassment]. I want to win."

Zhang Aijun's desire to win began when she was in the third year of primary school. Before this time, she had never been conscious of this fact. As the worst student in her class, she was often made to stay behind after school for remedial lessons. As she wrote 'a', o', 'e', the teacher said her 'a' was as skinny as a crescent moon. However, her 'ambitions' were more mature than her classmates.

She grew up in military housing - family life in her early childhood was far from warm and loving. Today on Nini's birthday, faced by a festive scene of fruit plates and cakes, Zhang Aijun remarks to a nearby friend "Our family didn't really know how to do this sort of stuff."

Throughout childhood, she had always battled her own sensitivity and insecurity. She had parents who were virtually invisible to her and a brother and sister more than 10 years her senior. Her sister resented their father's favouritism towards Zhang Aijun, deliberately neglecting her share of food when she cooked. Zhang Aijun was both hungry and angry, yet understood clearly that her sister was 'a great student' and 'a capable person'. Her brother in contrast was a delinquent young man who smoked and drank, liked to party with his 'bros' [TN: may mean criminal gang or just male friends], and would often grab her and lift her by the neck. These trivial incidents were seen as very serious by Zhang Aijun; she very clearly recalls that her sister called her 'ugly'.

At the same time, Zhang Aijun envied her siblings' lives and aspired to be like them, dancing, organising events, having a platform to perform on - but who would heed the needs of a child? Thus her aspirations for public attention remained unfulfilled, causing Zhang Aijun to feel lonely from an early age. "I would have given anything to be in the spotlight," she said.

Zhang Aijun learned the habit of desiring fame from her mother, who liked to be fashionable and filled the house with the latest trends, from coats to books. In 1978, attracted by the craze for foreign languages that followed China's economic re-opening to the outside world, her mother accumulated stashes of English, Japanese and French language books beneath the family's elmwood coffee table, but never ended up learning any of them. Zhang Aijun followed suit in chasing this trend, using pinyin [TN: system for representing Chinese phonetics in Latin alphabet, also used in transliterating foreign words] and radio broadcasts, to learn to sing 'I love the great Tiananmen of Beijing' in Japanese ("I was terribly fashionable back then.") Even now when Zhang Aijun mentions these things, she looks proud and excited.

Today on Christmas Eve 2019, in a nursing home in Beijing's Changping district, Zhang Aijun stands in the hallway, bending over to dissuade her wheelchair-bound mother who wants to return home with her. Outside is dark and snowy, while inside, warmth lingers on the table after lunch. Being elderly, her 92-year-old mother hears and speaks unclearly, thus Zhang Aijun often stoops closer to her mother's ear level.

Zhang Aijun was rarely this intimate with her mother as a child, as her mother was career-oriented. Her mother would leave the house at 5 am to take the tram to work, and return after her daughter had gone to bed. However, the events of bygone days do not prevent Zhang Aijun from understanding why her mother wants to leave the nursing home - it's because she prefers independence to the comforts of the nursing home.

When the Tangshan Earthquake struck [TN: in 1976, infamously killed 250,000 people], when her bed started shaking in the early hours of the morning, her mother burst in and carried Zhang Aijun to safety. "My mother really is a hero," she recalls approvingly. It was this incident that drove home to her that "ultimately, she is a good mother.”

She recalls that it was her father that brought light to her childhood: taking her for rides, swimming, on farm visits, carrying her on his back and crawling around the house. During parental committee meetings at school, it was always he who attended.

Some matters are already long past, yet Zhang Aijun unerringly remembers an instance one year when she caused her father to break traffic rules resulting in him being scolded by the teacher, and her resultant guilt.

Chafing at the restraint of boarding school, that same winter she took a 10 yuan bill stolen from her father and a box of coins that she had saved, and ran off with another girl to Zizhuyuan Garden, playing on the slides and swings. Trouble came at day's end when she got a sound beating from her father, a scolding from the teacher, and was demoted to a lower class [TN: Like some other countries, China does class streaming based on student ranking.] From then on, a sense of shame and defiance entered her consciousness. [TN: boarding school in China is common and not posh like in the West, just basic food and dormitories. Can be necessary if the family lives in a rural area or can't afford housing in a good schooling zone.]

Zhang Aijun only gained 'enlightment' in 3rd year, when an essay she part-wrote, part-plagiarised was praised publicly as a "distinguished work" by the teacher, who set as a model example. This was her first taste of 'victory': such a sweet feeling, being number one! When her father was praised for his daughter's achievements at the parents' committee, Zhang Aijun understood - to be the first in class and excel academically, she would be able to bring him honour. She would not permit any blow to this honour - later when she didn't manage to be top of the class, she privately slapped herself in the face. Now, Zhang Aijun sees her daughter through the same lens:

"When she sees me cry or get angry, or be scolded by others, Nini feels sad. She would fight to the death for my honour - such are children's emotions towards their parents."

Will continue in the weekend when I'm free again...
 
Top