As a reward for winning an Olympic gold medal in flatwater canoeing four years ago, Yang Wenjun the son of peasant rice farmers was handed the deed to a three-bedroom apartment here in a neighborhood called Sunny City.
The local government bought and decorated it, hanging giant scrolls in the living room that announce in Mandarin: “Yang Wenjun won gold in the Olympics. It brings good luck here.” But his mother, Nie Chunhua, said Yang had been anything but lucky. She wiped away tears with hands dark and swollen from farming.
“If I had better economic condition, I would not like him to do sports,” Nie, 49, said this spring. “Every time I think about him training, I feel so sad that my heart hurts. For him, and for me, there is so much pain.”