Three young Chinese in a row die from running. Sick Men of Asia?

November 30, 2012Jing Gao6 Comments, , , , ,

Ding Xiqiao, 25, registered for the 5,000-meter race at Guangzhou Marathon 2012 with nearly 200 of his coworkers at a real estate agency, hoping to challenge himself. However, on the morning of November 18, soon after he started to exert all his strength for the final 800 meters, he fainted 300 meters away from the finishing line. He was hooked up to life support and put under intensive care for eight days, but eventually he did not make it and passed away on November 27.

It is actually the second death at the same event, and both races that claimed the lives were not even anywhere near as excruciating as a marathon (42.195 kilometers). Chen Jie, a 21-year-old 10K runner, slipped into a coma right after finishing his race and died the next day.


Chen Jie fainted after finishing his 10,000-meter race at Guangzhou Marathon

Both families of Ding and Chen blame their sudden deaths on the organizing committee of Guangzhou Marathon, claiming that the tragedies could have been avoided if it had done a better job at providing timely medical aid, and have demanded compensation of more than one million Chinese yuan.


Grief-stricken family of Ding Xiqiao kneel down in front of Guangzhou’s sports officials for justice.

Chen Jie’s parents protest at the entrance of  Guangzhou Sports Administration with a banner that reads, “Guangzhou Marathon, Give My Son Back.”

Many netizens, sympathetic as they are, disagree. “No one forced you to run (marathon),” one user commented on NetEase, a popular Chinese web portal. “As the saying goes, ‘Know your own limits and don’t go beyond your power,’” another chimed in.

Just as the nation discussed averting the health risks associated with sports, another shocking death occurred. This time, the distance from death was even shorter. Two days ago, a junior student at Donghua University in Shanghai died after taking the 1,000 meter (0.66 mile) running test. It suddenly dawned on the nation that its people have become way too sick.

At the same time, physical education in China is also at a critical juncture. As sudden deaths at PE class surfaced one after another, instead of urging young students, who are increasingly unhealthy and sedentary, to exercise more, schools nationwide have cancelled medium-distance running races and other ‘danger- and accident-prone’ activities for fear of being held liable and involved in a lawsuit.

In Nanjing, universities have largely abolished men’s 5K and women’s 3K running races from their varsity meets. “Parents do not let them run. Universities dare not let them run. Students will not, cannot and do not want to run,” Wang Zongping, the director of Department of Physical Education at Nanjing University of Science and Technology told a reporter from Xinhua. He said that it on average takes a male student 10 more seconds to run a 1000-meter race than 10 years ago.

In some high schools and elementary schools, shot put, parallel bars and even swing have disappeared from the playground due to ‘safety concerns’. The vice principal of a high school in Jiangsu told Xinhua that though the sports meets are held annually, they are compressed into one day, and there are fewer events over the years. “Actually, the shot put balls have been left there untouched for years,” he said.

“Students are more and more precious. Parents are more and more fussy. Naturally, sports activities seem more and more ‘dangerous’,”said Shi Fei, a member of China Sports Science Society. The unduly protective and doting parents, who would take the teacher and the school to task for any minor injury their kids sustain, have pressured educators into dropping hiking trips. Wu Shaoping, head of a kindergarten in Nanjing, said, “Ten years ago, I often took kids to climb hills. These years, I rarely allow them out of the kindergarten, because I am afraid of anything wrong.”

But the harsh reality China is confronting as the result of serious lack of exercise among its youth is an ever-sicker population. According to the 2011 Beijing Physical Examination Statistical Report, among 75,000 high school graduates, only 14 percent passed as fit. Over 15 percent of boys and nearly 10 percent of girls are overweight.

In early September, at a boot camp where freshmen from Peking University underwent a two-week-long military training, which is required of all Chines college students, nearly 3,500 students had altogether 6,000 doctor’s visits at the school’s clinic. Many fainted during the first week.


A freshman fainted during compulsory military training.

“Nowadays, despite bigger build, kids are just like china dolls,” the principal of a high school in Nanjing said.

Ironically, they are living in a nation that took home the second most gold medals in London Olympic Games this summer. China is eager to fashion its image as a sports superpower to the world and whip up sense of national pride at home by repudiating its last-century epithet “Sick Man of Asia.” But as some Chinese net users nailed it, “The Olympic Games is all about a bunch of people who seriously need exercises watch another bunch of people who seriously need rest exercise.”

When asked about his view on the three sudden deaths, Shen Chunde, vice president of Chinese Athletics Association, said to Peninsular Morning Post, “If they can’t even finish a 1,000-meter race, what can they possibly do? Does it mean these young men will even have difficulty riding a bus and walking in the future? I’ve seen many schools abolish marathon, abolish long-distance running. This is just sadness of education.”


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6 comments to “Three young Chinese in a row die from running. Sick Men of Asia?”

  1. Blacksoth | December 1, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    Barking up the wrong tree just wastes time. The problem isn’t a lack of exercise. It’s a combination of poor diet and living in a toxic environment.

    There are similiar stories in the west of boys falling down over nothing and winding up with a broken appendage. It’s diet and it’s the poison in the diet and in the environment (bisphenol A, pthalates and other endocrine disruptors).

    So far the deaths have all been male, no? That fits.

  2. Jimmy | December 1, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    Glad I didn’t have to say it first. “You are what you eat”, and when your food and environment are filled with all kinds of questionable pollutants and toxins, well that’s what happens.

  3. ThinkBlue | December 1, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    Sad that the response to people having poor athletic ability is to ban more athletic events.

    • Thadd | December 2, 2012 | Permalink Reply

      It wouldn’t make much of a difference. If you don’t include walking, running, swimming, table tennis, racquet sports or biking, majority of the people over here consider pretty much every other sport to be dangerous.

      Well actually… watching people play basketball over here they’ve almost got me convinced that it’s a full contact sport, which should be considered dangerous.

  4. Thadd | December 2, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    Always think there’s something wrong when I see 10 year olds exhausted after talking up seven floors.

  5. Visitor | December 3, 2012 | Permalink Reply

    Way to go China. The parents are turning their male offsprings into pussies and mommies boys, is it any wonder they appear so femine. Some super power you will be in the near future. The boys will run home to their mommy at the first sign of hardship and hide in the bedroom.

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