Chinese gymnast Shang Chunsong got a lot of flack online when she broke down crying after just barely missing the medal podium during the individual all-around competition at the Rio Olympics on Thursday, but her tears weren't for herself. Shang Chunsong wanted to win for her brother, Shang Lei, who suffers from a visual impairment and needs medical care to restore his sight. Shang told Reuters about why she competes with such a passion in an interview just after the team qualifiers.
"My brother did a lot of things for me," she said. "I lived in the countryside. I needed a coach, but we didn't have any money. My brother gave up studying for me to do gymnastics. My dream is to find a way to cure my brother's eyes. I want him to see how beautiful the world is."
According to The South China Morning Post, Shang grew up in poverty in a village called Zhangjiajie in Hunan province. She and her brother would walk across a mountain every day to get to school. Shang Lei would carry the malnourished Shang Chunsong in the morning while Shang Chunsong would help her brother through the darkness on the way home at night. At age seven, Shang began training in gymnastics, and her brother dropped out of school to work as a masseur in order to finance her training. Now, she dreams of helping him, once again reciprocating his support after their long journey.
Thanks to her bronze medal win, Shang's dream just might come true. According to The Guardian, China has given medalists large cash sums, luxury cars, and even new houses for their Olympic performances. Shang also has the chance to medal in uneven bars, on which she placed eighth in the qualifying round. She was reportedly suffering from a fever during that portion of the competition, and stands a chance to medal again when she competes in event finals Sunday. With her success at the games, she might get some lucrative endorsement deals as well, which would also help finance medical care for her brother.
Gymnastics is one of the most intense sports in the Olympics, and athletes crack under the pressure all the time. For Shang, the selfless goal of helping her brother undoubtedly propelled her to her high ranking place in elite gymnastics. It seems the difficult workouts and tough competitions will all be worth it for this athlete if she can just help her brother see better, which is one of the best reasons to compete in these games.