Hey Amy Chua, what happened to Caroline Zhang?

After the garbage that was Macleans “too Asian” article, a new wave of Asian-mania has swept through the intertubes in the form of Amy Chua’s article on Asian parenting. In the article, Chua puts a positive spin on strict “Chinese parenting” stating that “the Chinese believe that the best way to protect their children is by preparing them for the future, letting them see what they’re capable of, and arming them with skills, work habits and inner confidence that no one can ever take away.”

Some have criticized Chua’s article for stereotyping the Chinese and promoting child abuse while others have written rebuttals defending the more relaxed “Western” style parenting. Since I have yet to be a parent, I wouldn’t know if a certain “style” is better. At the same time, I don’t see how insulting and threatening your children is a good way to teach by example. All you’re saying is that if you want something done, you yell and threaten someone and although that is the way some of the world works (especially in politics), I fear that if that’s how we deal with all of our relationships in life, this would be a horrible world indeed.

Personally, I find Chua’s implications of cultural superiority and the justification of abuse as cultural norms rather disturbing and while Chua may feel that her “Chinese” parenting methods are superior, let us just say that it probably isn’t the case for every single Asian family.

Exhibit A: Caroline Zhang


Caroline Zhang was a star in the junior level with beautiful flexibility and decent jumps. (Her mule kick wasn’t too bad.) It was clear that Caroline had a long way to go in terms of her mule kick toe jumps as well as her speed and power. However, she was just a young wisp of a thing, and everyone knew that a girl with tons of potential could correct her faulty jump technique; not to mention that speed and power usually came with time and a lot of training. When she won the 2007 junior World championships, many people saw two great American figure skating ladies – Michelle Kwan and Sasha Cohen – in her and were very excited for her future.

However, Caroline’s mule kick got worse and her speed and power were still lacking and in 2010, she found herself in 11th place at Nationals and out of the Olympic team.

So what happened? Well, Aunt Joyce gives us some insights on Caroline’s training in one of his blog posts:

The Zhangs (mother and daughter) are notoriously difficult to deal with. Caroline skates millions of sessions a day with her mother standing at the boards yelling at her. When they left Li Mingzhu, Caroline initially trained with Callaghan and that relationship deteriorated within a matter of weeks. Caroline then went to Charlene Wong but eventually back to Li Mingzhu. While Li is a good coach, she is really one of the few who was willing to put up with the Zhang bullshit attitude and drama. Anyone involved in figure skating in Southern California has heard all about the Zhangs over the years. They’re infamous. It isn’t some rumor gone awry. It is common knowledge. Zhang actually left Ms. Li a month before she chose to return to China. Ms. Li began working with Chinese skaters a few years ago and is moving back home.

Caroline Zhang is perhaps one of the most compelling skaters to watch (if you ignore that awkward mule kick in her flips and lutzes and that extra second she waits before going into her loop) but sadly, she’s also one with one of the worst attitudes. Aunt Joyce pointed out her flippant and annoyed reaction to her scores at Skate Canada last season:

Compare that to Meryl Davis’ graceful reaction when she learned that she and Charlie weren’t going to make it on the podium (because the Russians who were clearly going to win were skating after them) even after one of the best performances of their lives:

Caroline decided to make some changes this season and correct her jump technique with Tammy Gambill. However, a few weeks before the upcoming U.S. Nationals, she decided to switch coaches again.

I can’t say that Caroline’s failing career was totally her mother’s fault but Caroline’s bad attitude (which could very well be her emulating her P.O’ed mother) and her difficult relationships with her coaches are undoubtedly a detriment to her skating. Many people are losing hope for Caroline – 4 years after her junior World champion win, she’s basically a non-factor in many international competitions. I’ll try not to lose hope, only because she was very close to my ideal skater at one point in her career.

~The Rinkside Cafe

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