Sports / Newsmakers

What are Chinese more glad to see than gold medals?

By Mao Jing and Guo Rong ( Updated: 2016-08-22 14:41

Editor's note: Winning gold medals does not mean everything anymore in China. Gold medalist or not, Fu Yuanhui and Sun Yang, or Qin Kai and He Zi are all representatives of Chinese new generation players. With their praiseworthy performances on the field and charisma off the field, it seems everybody wants to hear their stories and root for them.

From 'go to die, Liu Xiang' to 'Don't cry, Sun Yang'

What are Chinese more glad to see than gold medals?

Liu Xiang kisses the hurdle after he hopped down the track to the finishing line in the heat of 110-meter hurdles in 2012 London Olympic Games, Aug 7. [Photo/Xinhua]

The once world champion of 100 meter freestyle Ning Zetao failed at semi-finals of both 50 and 100 meter freestyle and did not say much to the reporters waiting for him. As the first Asian guy to win the gold medal in the 100 freestyle in the 2015 world swimming championships in Kazan, and four gold medals in Ichon Asian Games, and due to perfect body and cute face, Ning then became the idol of millions of youngsters. However, he began having physical problems after that and off-field issues, which contributed to lackluster performance in Rio.

Claiming himself as the king of the 1,500 meter freestyle, Sun Yang also met his Waterloo. Preparing for a showdown with Australian swimmer Mack Horton, Sun surprisingly toiled his way through his heat in the 16th-fastest time, more than half a minute off his best. Sun said he was struck down by illness after winning the 200m freestyle gold medal on Monday.

What are Chinese more glad to see than gold medals?

Sun Yang leaves the pool after the 1,500 freestyle heat, Aug 12, 2016. [Photo/Xinhua]

Thousands of comments expressing concern and support were left on Sun Yang's Sina Weibo account. For example, a user dengdengdawangdenvhuang said: "My king, I will always support you. See you in Tokyo!" And WY-wyangj said: "You are the best! Take care! You still have a long way to go!"

Xiaomifanlili posted Ning Zetao's photos on her weibo with the comment: Cute, persistent, brave, concentrated, you are always the best! The world under the water is quiet, so you can listen to your heart." Besides, many youngsters are more concerned with Ning's handsome features rather than his performance, and called him "national husband".

Other defending champions such as shooter Zhu Qinan, gymnast Dong Dong, diver Qin Kai and swordsman Lei Sheng all experienced a setback in this Olympics. But instead of being disappointed and blaming them, most of the users showed tolerance and respect and gave them encouragement.

However, until a few years ago, the players were judged by his or her achievements. If you won, you became the hero. If you lost, you fell into the abyss.

The same with Ning and Sun, Liu Xiang, who also stole the spotlight before the game. was in bad health condition and had sluggish performance during the game, but received quite different reactions after the match.

In 2008, during the Beijing Olympics, as the defending champion and the first Chinese track and field gold medalist, 110-meter hurdler Liu Xiang limped away from the racetrack after striding over the third hurdle with the great anticipation of the audience. On the 2012 London Olympic Games, Liu had a relapse and quit before the gunshot. Again! People were shocked and then got infuriated. Liu Xiang became the target for all overnight. The internet was overwhelmed with slanders and scolding.

When Zhu Jianhua brought home only the bronze medal from the 1984 Olympics (after he had made three consecutive world records), the windows of his Shanghai home were smashed.

When star gymnast Li Ning failed to repeat his stellar performance in the 1988 Olympics, he was turned into a pariah. The newspapers said he should "go hang himself".

Those athletes have now resigned and people are re-examing their attitude toward them.

In the days when gold medals were worshiped, nobody lived an easy life. But the good news is that, things are changing today.

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