This year’s Olympics has so far produced several instant stars and admired athletes. One enthusiastic Chinese swimmer, however, has captivated the international fans in a very unique way.
Chinese competitive swimmer Fu Yuanhui became the universal Olympic darling after showing her emotional side during an interview with a CCTV5 reporter. Her ecstatic, yet humble reaction after winning a bronze medal showed the world that it’s not always about being the very best.
The backstroke specialist was born in Zhejieng, China on Jan. 7, 1996. According to her online bio, she reportedly learned to swim at the age of 5 due to her father’s belief that swimming could improve her asthma.
At age 15, she’s earned international recognition after winning two medals at the 2011 World Junior Championships — a gold in the 100-meter backstroke and a bronze in the 200-meter freestyle.
The following year, she then competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, in the Women’s 100-meter backstroke, where she was able to qualify for the semifinals.
Following her Olympic debut, Fu joined the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona where she finished second in the 50-meter backstroke, fourth as a member of the 4×100-meter medley relay and 5th-place in the 100-meter back, posting a sub-1:00 time.
She then went on to win the 50-meter backstroke at the World Aquatics Championship in 2015 and helped China win the 4×100 meter medley.
Her most recent accomplishment, clocking 58.76 seconds in the 100-meter backstroke event, has made her an overnight sensation.
China’s social media is now abuzz with her excited facial expressions and inherent humor which easily turned her into an online celebrity.
During the 100 meter backstroke semi-final, Fu exclaimed:
“58.95 seconds!? I thought it was 59 seconds! I was so fast!”
“I have used all my mystic energy,” she added.
Fu even described her three-month training as a difficult journey, saying:
“At times, I felt like living was no better than death.”
When asked about her hopes for the upcoming final, she responded:
“No expectation! I’m very satisfied now!”
The refreshing statement, which shows another facet on how competition is viewed, warmed the hearts of international fans and endeared her more with Chinese fans. Her supporters have also been vocal in appreciating her sincerity and her attitude towards competition.
Within 48 hours of her interview, her followers on Chinese social media site Sina Weibo have ballooned to four million from a previous hundred thousand.
Chinese audiences have been reportedly accustomed to seeing athletes become big names following a gold medal win. Achieving anything less would usually mean being left unknown and forgotten by the public. Fu’s satisfaction with her bronze medal is seen as a huge shift in attitude about the games.