BEIJING (Reuters) - The father of an eight-year-old Chinese girl who ran 3,560 km (2,212 miles) to Beijing to celebrate the 2008 Olympics on Tuesday denied accusations of child abuse.
Zhang Huimin arrived in Beijing on Sunday after she started her extraordinary odyssey on July 3 from Sanya, at the southern tip of the island province of Hainan, with her father following on a motorized bicycle.
Huimin got up at 2.30 a.m. every day to train for the run and would have had to have run about 65 km a day for 55 days -- the equivalent of about one and a half marathons a day.
Domestic media and some experts accused the father, Zhang Jianmin, a businessman, of abuse, saying the Beijing run would damage the girl’s body and affect her growth.
Zhang told Reuters he was not concerned.
“I don’t care about what the experts say. Although they accuse me of being cruel or abusive, I think I‘m right,” he said.
“She is always healthy around me and never said her legs hurt or that she was tired after running 30 kilometers,” Zhang told Reuters in Tiananmen Square.
“I am suffering huge media pressure. But I have never worried about her future health. As she was able to endure the long distance running and has grown up healthily from the year three to eight, which are the weakest ages, there’s no reason she could not endure this in the next years.”
Huimin started running 3 km a day when she was three and was hitting 23 km a day by the time she was seven, the China Daily said.
Liu Hong, director of the China School Sports Federation, was quoted by the newspaper as saying the exercise regime was extremely hard, even for an adult.
“The running will certainly harm her,” he said.
As for her future, Dad had one eye on the Olympics.
“If she is interested in running then we will keep working on it. She’ll be 18 in 10 years time and it will be possible to take part in the Olympics... Whatever she is interested in, I’ll do my utmost to support her.”
On the Beijing trip, she only rode twice on her father’s motorized bicycle, the China Daily said -- when she was chased by four wild dogs and when it was too steep to run down a steep mountain road.
Huimin herself appeared unfazed by the whole marathon event and the attention it had brought.
“I’ve liked running since I was very young,” she said. “Running makes me happy.”