Valuable lessons from the YouTube

Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way.

– Al Franken, former US senator

If you watched the Olympic women’s 10m platform diving event recently, you would have loved Chinese teenager, Quan Hongchan who captured the gold medal.

Boyish looking with spiky hair, she is of small stature and at 14, obviously still growing.

Her name Hongchan, means “red beauty”, in Mandarin. Quan, the youngest Chinese athlete in Tokyo, produced three perfect-10 dives to clinch the gold medal.

Quan comes from a humble, rural family and has a sad story to share after her victory. Her parents are farmers and she told the media she wanted to help out with her mother’s medical bills. Her mother was involved in a traffic accident several years ago and has been hospitalised multiple times. She said her household depended heavily on her father.

Quan also said her parents had previously told her not to be nervous and to just be herself. “It doesn’t matter if I get a medal or not,” she said.

Quan, who made her international debut at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, was born on March 28, 2007 in Mazhang district of Zhanjiang, Guangdong, China.

Third of five children, Quan was discovered when a sports school recruited a group of freshmen to participate in a summer camp for diving. Her parents were very supportive of her decision to start competitive diving.

In 2014, at the age of seven, she started training in diving. In 2018, she joined the Guangdong provincial team.

At the age of 11, Quan won in three events at the Guangdong Diving Championship. The following year, she won five events at the Guangdong Diving Championship. In October 2020, when she was 13, she won the National Diving Championship in the 10-metre platform event.

A picture of her coach holding Quan aloft after her Olympics 10m platform diving win — both beaming with joy — has been flooding China’s social media.

The teenager’s success in Tokyo is the result of years of hard work. Quan chose to learn diving when she was seven years old, attending the Zhanjiang Sports School where each day she trained three to four hours, and practised 400 dives.

She confessed that she did not like classes and thought she could just dive as a substitute for school.

Because she is just 14, we can expect to see Quan in more international diving competitions and the Olympics Games in future.

Among the valuable lessons we learn from Quan’s story are that “There is no shortcut to success” and “Practice makes perfect.” In her case, 400 dives a day led to three perfect-10 dives at the Olympics.

Moving on to another topic, I was horrified by what I saw when I watched the news reports and videos on the recent floods – from late July until early August — in China’s Henan Province shared on YouTube.

Videos shared on social media showed evening train commuters keeping their heads just above the water and water rushing onto the train platforms.

Record-breaking rainfall also flooded Jingguang Tunnel — a flooded two-km-long underpass, where numerous vehicles and passengers were trapped in Zhengzhou province.

Roads were turned into rivers, with cars and debris swept along in fast moving currents.

As of August 2, provincial authorities reported that 302 people had died, 50 more were missing, 815,000 people were evacuated, 1.1 million were relocated, and 9.3 million people were affected.

Looking at the videos, I suspect the number of people who died during the floods may be higher than the official death toll reported by the provincial authorities.

Just by watching the videos, I picked up a few valuable — and scary — lessons.

Lesson No. I: If you are caught in a flood with fast moving currents, get out of your car fast, no matter how expensive it is, and scramble for the highest ground. Never mind if you lose your car. You can always get a new one. Never gamble on your life — you live but only once.

Lesson No. 2: Be alert and take note of your surroundings, especially, if you are in an underground mall. One of the flooded malls in Henan Province was three floors underground. Phew!

Lesson No. 3: Don’t ever be caught in a long underpass with hundreds or even thousands of cars moving from bumper-to-bumper during a flood. Just before it was flooded, a video showed the Jingguang Tunnel in Henan Province was full of vehicles. I wonder what happened to the people and the vehicles during the horrible flood and after the flood.

Although many parts of the world were flooded, to me, none was as horrifying as the floods in Henan Province. I am still haunted by the scene I saw in the crowded Jingguang Tunnel just before it was flooded, videos of the trapped commuters in the flooded underground trains and videos of pedestrians, motorists and cars being swept away by the fast-moving flood waters.

I also salute the ordinary Chinese people who risked their lives to save many of the unlucky pedestrians and motorists caught in the sudden flood.