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Inside China's gruelling sports schools where they spend 10 hours a day training to be the next Olympians

At the Chen Jinglun Sports school in Hangzhou, we were shown how they cultivate Olympic champions.

The school has a proven track record of producing gold medalists.

One of their most famous graduates is swimmer Ye Shiwen who won double gold at London 2012.

Ye Shiwen won double gold at London 2012. Credit: Reuters

They will have four swimmers at this years Olympics in Rio.

And pupils here are left in no doubt about the purpose of their training.

Above the entrance of the school is a huge sign reading: "Today sport student, tomorrow Olympic star."

Children as young as four receive up to 10 hours a day intensive coaching in their ‘chosen’ field.

The youngsters are put through their paces from a very early age. Credit: ITV News

Some of the sessions we witnessed were being conducted with a military-like intensity.

And in the gymnastics hall we saw young girls and boys being stretched to their limits.

Forced to hang from bars, do pull ups or be manipulated into the splits position. It didn't look like many of them were having fun.

The school rejects criticism its methods are cruel and archaic. Credit: ITV News

There are around 3,000 sports schools in China, training almost half a million children.

The uncompromising focus on training and diet means only the most talented and dedicated make it.

At the school in Hangzhou around 900 children are recruited every year from nursery schools around the city.

And some are plucked from rural villages with the promise of sporting glory, fame and fortune for their families.

Past Olympic winners from this city were given £300,000 homes by a local company.

Headmaster of the school Chen Jinglun. Credit: ITV News

The Headmaster of Chen Jinglun rejects the criticism that their coaching methods are cruel and archaic:

No hard work, no gain.

It's different from other jobs, competitive sports require sweat and blood to become outstanding.

To get in the Olympics you must be quicker, more superior and more competitive than others.

You must go through the hardship for the best result.

But our training is not the same as the military.

– Chen Jinglun
Children swim in the school's pool. Credit: ITV News

But with so many children competing for so few places on the Olympic team those that don’t make it can be left destitute.

We met 32-year-old Zhang Shangwu who at the age of six was recruited by a sports school in the Hebei province.

He went on to compete in the national gymnastics team at the age of 13 and was destined for the Olympics - until he was struck down by an injury at the age of 18.

Zhang Shangwu felt 'like a animal released back into the wild' after he was injured. Credit: ITV News

I felt completely lost. I had been training since I was in nursery and suddenly I was just left, like an animal release back into the wild.

I had been trained like a professional so I had no education, no job skills.

There should be a resettlement office like the military to take care of all the athletes like me who had to retire because of injury.

To care of our education, employment and medical treatment, not like the situation where we have to do all of this for ourselves.

– Zhang Shangwu

Zhang had no family to support him and had since been living on the streets, selling jewellery to try and earn some money.

He does handstands to try and drum up business and shows a picture of himself on the cusp of Olympic glory.

Zhang Shangwu does a handstand while selling jewellery. Credit: ITV News

There are thousands of former athletes like Zhang in China.

Those whose talent wasn’t quite good enough or who were struck down by injury due to the relentless training practices.

However every year, hundreds more sign up to schools in the pursuit of one goal, Olympic Gold.

The tough training doesn't put off hundreds more pupils signing up every year. Credit: ITV News