Top 5 lessons that 1 billion Chinese are learning from adorable swimmer Fu Yuanhui
Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui has shot to internet stardom not just for her funny expressions during Rio Olympics, but also for her refreshing candor and sheer exuberance as an athlete. She has earned praise even from vaunted news publications such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal. The bronze medalist is now cheered as the real golden winner as she returns to China where the gold medal has traditionally been the holy grail in sports competitions. Here are the top lessons that 1 billion Chinese people can learn from the adorable swimmer who has won hearts all around the world.
In case you missed the news on Fu Yuanhui, here is a video compiled with some of her most memorable moments:
1. It's okay not to win a gold medal.
In the past, Chinese athletes used to apologize to the entire nation of China for being a disappointment for failing to win. When Fu Yuanhui expressed her surprise and delight at beating her own record, without regard for her place in rank, it was like a wake-up call to a billion people who have been accustomed to demand gold as the minimum goal for success.
People who have seen her expression of sheer joy are irresistibly affected by her happiness and excitement in doing her best in the Olympics. No medal needed.
2. Athletes are people, not machines.
Although western media have covered Fu Yuanhui's funny expressions and exuberance, it is not as well discussed that in the original interview, she also talked about the extreme difficulty she endured in order to come to Rio to compete in no uncertain words. Here is what she really said, "It took three months to train to get to these results, even ghosts do not know what I experienced. It was so difficult that sometimes I even felt I was about to die. I almost thought it was easier to die than live."
(The expression "even ghosts do not know" is a common Chinese phrase to express "no one understands.")
To a Chinese viewer, this answer may be even more shocking than just looking at her funny expressions, because she was expressing her own thoughts in a very direct manner. She then further added that she was completely satisfied and didn't even have any expectation for the next day's final race. Her response was un-coached and completely impromptu.
3. Female athletes have periods too!
Fu Yuanhui was noticeably in pain after she swam in her last Olympic competition in Rio, the 4x100-meter medley relay, for which the Chinese team placed 4th. She explained that she was entering her period and felt more fatigued, although she said it wasn't an excuse and she apologized for not swimming her best. This news immediately went viral because it is quite rare for any discussion about menstruation and female athletes. It's a subject that rarely shows up even in western media. Now, Fu Yuanhui is praised for her breaking another barrier in a taboo topic.
In Chinese media, it's even been opined that Fu Yuanhui is giving the Chinese a lesson on sex education, in that the general public probably aren't aware that female athletes can compete during menstrual cycles and that they may use tampons. The phrase "Fu Yuanhui's period" (傅園慧例假) has become a hot internet search term in China. It should also be noted that she directly said the word "period," instead of "big auntie" that many Chinese women would use euphemistically as in "My big auntie is visiting today."
4. It's also okay to just say no!
When 10 million viewers tuned in to watch her in a live-streaming broadcast that was arranged before the Rio Olympics started, she refused to make one of her funny facial expressions on demand, and said that her expressions were natural and came from the heart, and that it would be a fake if she made a deliberate one during the live broadcast.
She said it was too early for her in Rio's time for the broadcast, but viewers still glued to their screen to watch her eat cupcakes and talk. She also told viewers not to spend money on buying the online virtual gifts to shower on her. She emphasized that she would not be commercialized and that she just wanted to be an athlete.
5. Learning more about history and The Force!
The swimmer is also famous for using the term "洪荒之力," translated (by me) as "Primordial force," to describe exhausting all of her strength in the swimming competition. The term has earned her a nickname as "Primordial girl" in admiring western media. She told her 10 million viewers that she picked up the phrase from reading, her favorite hobby. The discussion about the phrase and the associated meaning has led many Chinese to seek the origin of the phrase (as ancient as from Lao Tzu's I Ching) and its extended meanings. Will people read more books as a result?
To the 20-year-old funny girl and most beloved Chinese athlete in Rio Olympics, we would like to convey our best wishes for her to continue to strive for personal achievement and happiness in her chosen sport and in any endeavors.
Most importantly, we want you, Fu Yuanhui, to continue to be yourself!
(I want some of that Primordial Force myself. How about you?)
(Image credit as referenced or tagged)