China’s X Factor: Girl Power
China’s women have the legacy of Karl Marx to thank for their performance. Chairman Mao liked to say that “women hold up half the sky,” and when the country revved up its state-sponsored project in the 1990s to cultivate athletes, women were given more than equal treatment. Strategically focusing on women’s sports because they are underfunded in most other nations, China’s sports ministry poured millions of dollars into developing everything from female marksmen to wrestlers. “Chinese girls are willing to work harder and eat more bitterness than the boys,” says Dong Jianqing, a judo coach at the Qingdao Sports School in eastern China, one of the country’s top athletic academies. Dong should know about girls’ ability to “eat bitterness,” a Chinese phrase that describes a capacity to withstand suffering. He mentored several female judoka who went on to win Olympic medals.