The story of U.S. Olympic swimmer Missy Franklin is heartwarming. As a father, it’s the one I would want for my kid.
The story of Chinese diver Wu Minxia is heartwrenching. As a father who writes about sports, it’s the one that gets me up on the soapbox railing about the dangers of over emphasizing youth sports.
Missy’s story is meant for Hollywood. In spite of her emergence on the world stage, she has remained a normal 17-year-old girl. How normal?
TODAY in London's Eun Kyung Kim reported that pop star Justin Bieber tweeted about Missy. “Heard @FranklinMissy is a fan of mine. Now I’m a fan of hers too! CONGRATS on winning GOLD! #muchlove.”
How would a normal 17-year-old girl respond to that? Just like Missy did. “I just died. Thank you!”
Missy’s teen years had been like virtually every other American girl’s until July 20th of this year. Missy attends Regis Jesuit in Aurora, CO. Nothing has been the same or normal there since. Hopefully it will be soon.
Missy’s career has been in stark contrast to Wu’s. Missy’s parents, D.A. and Dick were told by many that they should move Missy to California and let her train with the best. Make the most of her athletic gift. Missy said no. She was good at Regis Jesuit and wanted to stay with her friends. Missy was right.
Wu started daily training at the age of six and moved away from her family at 16, 10 years ago. This is her third Olympics and the gold medal she has won in London is her third gold; she also has a silver and a bronze.
Quite a bounty. But at what price?
It was revealed today that Wu’s parents finally told her that her grandparents had died over a year ago and that her mom has breast cancer that’s now in remission, according to Yahoo! Sports.
“It was essential to tell this white lie,” said her father, Wu Yuming. Essential?
Family and friends are everything to Missy. Wu’s dad sheds some light on the different experience of his daughter.
“We accepted a long time ago that she doesn’t belong entirely to us,” Wu Yuming told the Shanghai Morning Post in the same article. “I don’t even dare to think about things like enjoying family happiness.”
Over a year had passed and Wu had not known that her grandparents had died? She had not seen them in that long? She did not get to say goodbye? And that was accepted?
The Chinese government has only been sending congratulatory messages to gold-medal winners, not silver or bronze winners.
This is why I get the soapbox out. This is what petrifies me about what I see happening in youth sports.
It’s not the government here that concerns me. It’s the fact that Missy Franklin is such a unique story.
The fact that most parents would have listened to the talk about moving her and putting her in a big time, pressure-filled program. Because that’s generally the way it’s done.
D.A. and Dick, I applaud you. You have done a tremendous job raising a wonderful daughter. Second to that is her world-class talent.
Follow me on Twitter@sprtsramblngman