Girl, 10, is tied up by father before tackling 3-hour swim

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The Independent Online

A father bound his 10-year-old daughter's hands and feet and watched as she went for a three-hour swim in a chilly river, the latest crazy feat of endurance by a child in China.

With the country gripped by Olympics fever in the approach to the games in Beijing next August, stunning and often foolhardy new feats of athleticism are being reported almost daily.

Huang Li's father tied her hands with string and her feet together with cloth before helping her into the cold waters of the Xiang river, a tributary of the Yangtze in the southern province of Hunan. Huang, a swimming prodigy, hopes to get into the Guinness World Records book and swim the English Channel.

"She asks me every day, 'Can I achieve this? Is the English Channel wide? Are the waves really big?'," said Huang's father, Huang Daosheng, a teacher who is also her swimming coach. "Next time, she will swim further and I will follow her in a boat to ensure safety."

He said his daughter, a fourth-grade pupil from the city of Zhangjiajie, got the idea from watching a similar stunt on television. She swam by undulating her body like a dolphin, occasionally paddling with her bound hands. Huang's face was blue with cold when she was pulled out of the water but her mother, Song Jinfang, said she knew she could have gone further. "I know she can continue but I fear she might be in danger. It is getting cold and she had only a bowl of noodles for lunch before she started swimming at 12.45pm," she added.

However, not all spectators were impressed with the stunt. "It is dangerous to swim with bound limbs. What if she had muscle cramps and drowned?" said one student.

Last month, an eight-year-old girl was reported to have completed a run of 3,560km – nearly the length of China – in a series of marathons. Zhang Huimin's feat rekindled debate about whether such stunts were admirable patriotism or simple child abuse.

Zhang's father was forced to deny accusations of abuse made by the Chinese media, while some medical experts said the exercise regime would damage the girl's body and affect her growth.