After her third consecutive gold medal in three-meter springboard synchronized diving, Chinese diver Wu Minxia’s parents told her that her grandparents had died and her mother had breast cancer.
Minxia’s grandparents had been dead for more than a year, and her mother had been battling cancer for eight years, AFP reports.
Wu Jueming, Minxia’s father, believed that the death of her grandparents and her mother’s breast cancer would distract her from training, Yahoo! reports. “It was essential to tell this white lie,” Jueming said.
The story has brought criticism of China’s intense sports program. In China, promising athletes are often enrolled in Soviet-style schools that focus on training several hours a day at a young age. At age six, Minxia began attending a daily diving camp. At age sixteen, she moved away from home to train full time in a government aquatic sports program.
Minxia’s parents did not meet with her before her competition in London, hoping not to distract her from her quest for gold. Said Minxia’s father, “We’ve only sent our daughter one text message since we arrived in London, to tell here we we are safe, so she wouldn’t worry.” He continued, “We’ve known for years that our daughter doesn’t belong to us any more.”
The gold medal was Minxia’s third consecutive in the springboard event and her fifth medal overall. She also captured the gold at in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics.