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


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.”

Suggested Topics
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk