I was so incredibly sad for Chinese diver Wu Minxia. What should have been the most joyous moment of her young life was ruined by devastating news. After winning her third medal at the Olympics, the 26-year-old learned that her parents had been hiding two horrible secret: both her grandparents had died a year earlier and that her mother had been battling breast cancer for years but they didn't tell her.
"We never tell her what's happening at home," her father Wu Jueming told a reporter. I understand that she was in the midst of intense training, but this was a massive and seemingly unnecessary betrayal all for the sake of winning.
It's our job as parents to shield our kids from pain, but this is something all together different. It's as though they had cut the poor child out of their lives for her athletic career. Her dad told the Shanghai Morning Post:
"We accepted a long time ago that she doesn't belong entirely to us ... I don't even dare to think about things like enjoying family happiness."
That is just tragic and sad. Now, it would be foolish of me not to take into account that her parents likely got pressure from other people not to be open and honest with their daughter. Wu started diving at age six and moved out of the house to train full time at the government aquatic sports institute by 16. It's long been reported that China has a "win-at-all-cost" mentality when it comes to the Olympic games. From her father's comment, the separation has been hard for the entire family. Fortunately, her mother is now in remission -- which is certainly reason for Wu to celebrate.
There are clearly circumstances in their lives we may never understand. But in general, parents of Olympic-bound athletes need to share the good and the bad with their children. And that communication goes both ways. The kids need to be able to talk openly about what they are going through as well. The family bond is critical -- a group that loves you unconditionally and is always truthful is so valuable. That kind of support sustains a person when life is at its toughest.
Watch more about Wu Minxia's story here:
Do you think the parents should have told her the truth, no matter how sad?
Image via terren in Virginia/Flickr