Chinese tennis champion Li Na has an unusually independent spirit. This may be why.
After China's tennis champion, Li Na, won the Australian Open and her second Grand Slam title, she thanked her agent for making her rich and her husband for his support and having the luck to marry her. The audience loved her candid charm. A day later, people are wondering why she didn't thank her motherland as other Chinese athletes would have. An old video sheds some light on the answer.
In a country where only the gold medal seems the worthy prize, a bronze medal is usually considered a disappointment. In 2001, Li Na won the bronze medal in a mixed double tennis tournament. Here is a video that was recently played on Chinese TV, probably unintentionally included, when an interviewer showed segments of Li Na's career. Take a look and observe what happens when Li Na bends down to receive her bronze medal.
Even without any sound, it looks quite clear what happened. Did you see the hand slapping Li Na? It was very obvious that Li Na reacted with her face turning away and the athlete standing next to her looked surprised too.
Did her independent spirit emerge when she was slapped in such a denigrating manner? It's not easy to survive in a tough government-controlled system where athletes are treated as commodities and don't have the freedom to choose.
She quit China's state-managed sports system in 2008 and has since won two Grand Slam titles. Her wins have brought great pride to China but she also has behaved with a strong independence.
After the Australia Open win, the government of Hubei province where her hometown, Wuhan, is located, gave her a cash award of 800,000 yuan (about 132,000 US dollars). Li Na accepted it with a stone-cold face. Perhaps she doesn't need the money, but wouldn't you think it's also because of her past experience dealing with government officials?
Regardless of the real reason, we congratulate Li Na for her triumphant win and we love her open smiles.