Diving: Chinese gold medallist Wu Minxia kept in the dark over family tragedies so she wouldn't 'lose focus'


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The Independent Online

A Chinese gold medallist has only just discovered that her grandparents died a year ago and that her mother suffered from breast cancer for eight years - all because her family did not want her to "lose focus". 

Pool star Wu Minxia won the three-metre synchronised springboard for the third consecutive Olympics.

But her parents have revealed that her dedication and persistence have come at a high personal cost.

Wu, 26, has been cut off from the outside world for 10 years at a tough training camp sponsored by the Chinese government.

She rarely even saw her family as she dived for eight hours day after day in a facility run by Project 119, the gold-seeking athletics scheme introduced by China after it won the Beijing Games in 2001.

Wu’s latest triumph came last Sunday at the aquatics centre — but only after it was decided not to tell her any major details of her family’s lives so she could concentrate on winning medals for her country.

Her father Wu Jueming revealed: “We never tell her what’s happening at home. We even kept the news that her grandparents died from her.

“When grandma died, it seemed almost like she had a premonition, and she called us asking if her grandmother was okay.

“We had to lie. We told her, ‘Everything’s okay’. We never talk about family matters with our daughter.

“It has been like this for so many years. We long ago realised that our daughter doesn’t belong to us completely. Enjoying the company of family? I don’t think about it. I don’t dare think about it.”

Wu’s parents reportedly travelled to London to watch her dive at the Games but were not allowed to meet her until after she competed.

The extent of their correspondence was a text message to let her know they had arrived safely.

Mr Wu carries a mobile phone everywhere in case she calls and follows his daughter on Weibo, the Chinese equivalent of Twitter — obsessively reading everything she writes for clues to how she is doing.

He said: “We know her tweets can’t give us much information but reading them ensures that we are at peace. If we see she’s okay then we’re happy.

“She doesn’t call a lot. She’s too busy training. We understand that. But if we just have a little bit of connection with her we’re happy.”