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November 24, 2009

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Girl, 6, forced into marathon runs by father

A FATHER in south China has been forcing his six-year-old daughter to run dozens of kilometers every day in the hope of turning her into a marathon prodigy.

He is also fast-tracking her through school and she has a heavy study routine.

And the point of all this pressure, this gruelling regime, on such a little girl? He wants to impress his runaway wife and win her back.

Yang Feng, in Haikou City of Hainan Province, said he forced his daughter into the rigorous training schedule because he wanted to gain the girl some media coverage and catch her mom's attention, China News Service reported yesterday.

Though Yang said he was concerned about his daughter's health, including her puffy toes and badly swollen feet, the training continues.

Yang said he used to have "a lovely family" until their peaceful life was wrecked when his wife suddenly run away from home with a man -- and all the family savings.

After several months of trying to find his wife failed, he decided to give his daughter the mission of reuniting the couple by becoming a famous marathon runner.

"She just finished running 138 kilometers in two days and my target for her is to finish the same distance in one run," Yang said.

The 138 kilometers is the distance between Yang's and his wife's hometowns.

For the 400-meter playground track the girl is training on, she reportedly has to run 345 laps.

She is forced by her father to run long distances as soon as she finishes school.

Sometimes she ran nine consecutive hours until midnight, the report said.

"Now there is only my daughter and me, I have no choice but to let her share some of my pressure," said Yang. "I hope she will become more mature and sturdy through the training."

Yang said he would let his daughter register for next year's Provincial Marathon of Hainan as a further bid to win her mother back.

Running is only one step in Yang's game plan to make his daughter a "prodigy." The girl is a third grader as her father made her skip two grades.

Yang insisted she could do even better if she is allowed into the fifth grade.

The girl is also picking up singing, computer skills and guitar playing. She even has several "apprentices" who learn computer from her.

A researcher at the Hainan Province sports academy, who wished to remain anonymous, said such exhausting training can devastate the girl's health and would not enhance her running performance.

The researcher said long running could harm the girl's bones, heart, and nervous system and adverse effects could be seen in two or three years.

Cai Wei, with the provincial education authority, accused Yang of being self-centered.

She said Yang was placing his daughter's physical and mental health in jeopardy.


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