“Be yourself – not your idea of what you think somebody else’s idea of yourself should be.” – Henry David Thoreau (American Philosopher of the mid-19th century)
Day: Monday, July 30’ 2012
Place: London Olympics
Wu Jingbiao was distraught; on a live television interview immediately after the incident, he cried and was deeply sorry for having shamed his motherland.
Wu had just won a silver medal for China.
He burst the bubble. Someone had to do it, and Wu simply echoed the feelings of every other Chinese athlete at the Olympic Games. Wu is one amongst thirty thousand plus athletes that Beijing trains for winning gold in the Olympics. From the age of five, boys and girls undergo rigorous training, cut off from family and fun, so that one day they can prove they are the best. China’s desperate attempt to derive soft power through Olympic supremacy has come at a hefty price – unauthentic life and cardboard personalities. China has become one big factory that produces medal winners, and ironically, this obsession has brought pain to most competing athletes.
Four years later in the 2016 Rio games, there was a dramatic turnaround.
China won even lesser gold medals – from 48 in 2008 games, to 38 in 2012 and now just 26! But one young girl Fu Yuanhui became an on online sensation after she won bronze in swimming.
The twenty-year-old swimmer was gleeful because she had broken her previous record; in a candid interview, she expressed joy at having surpassed herself. She instantly won millions of hearts, and back home in China, her authenticity attracted many admirers.
In life, like in sports, real heroism is to compete with oneself. Pierre de Coubertin gave us the Olympic creed, “The most important thing in Olympic games is not to win, but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” Fu Yuanhui had lived this principle in her swimming event, and instantly that resonated with Olympic fans worldwide. Her clumsy expressions, childlike innocence, and a natural persona came as a breath of fresh air for the Chinese fans; it was an epiphany for many as she had redefined the Chinese athlete.
To be continued….