Adorable swimmer Fu Yuanhui wins our hearts yet again

Needless to say, one of the major attractions at the ongoing National Games of China is Fu Yuanhui, an Olympic and world medalist whose loveable character never disappoints fans.
Ding Xu / Xinhua

Fu Yuanhui of Zhejiang celebrates after winning the women's 100m backstroke swimming final at 13th Chinese National Games in north China's Tianjin Municipality, Sept. 2, 2017. Fu Yuanhui claimed the title with 59.40 seconds. 

Needless to say, one of the major attractions at the ongoing National Games of China is swimmer Fu Yuanhui, an Olympic and world medalist whose loveable character never disappoints fans.

When Fu climbed out of the pool with a victory in women's 100m backstroke on Saturday night, she was already holding back tears and putting on her signiture disarming smile to face the flock of reporters who were wondering what quotable "golden sentences" she might produce.

Only this time, Fu told a touching story about overcoming hardship after she narrowly missed the 50m backstroke title at July's Budapest World Championships, where the 21-year-old finished a runner-up in the 50m back final in 27.15 seconds, merely one hundredth of a second shy of defending her title. She burst into tears after the competition.

"The Budapest setback was such a heavy blow to me. I felt like I dropped to the rock bottom both mentally and physically after that," Fu said.

"What did I do to deal with it? I train. I have trained so hard that I collapsed in exhaustion after each day's sessions. I tried to use overbearing training to cover up the pain in my heart," she said.

Fu has won over millions of fans around China and worldwide with her candid and happy demeanor at last year's Rio Olympic Games. But what makes her an real sports idol is more than just being funny. Behind those amusing remarks and winsome facial expressions stands an athlete who fights tirelessly to prove herself.

When Fu's training pushed her to such extremes that she did not think she could carry on, she played a little encouraging background music, a song she learned from a Chinese TV Series about Qing emperor Kangxi.

"I quietly hummed 'I Really Want to Live Five Hundred Years' when I was in the pool. It was kind of sad and solomn as I told myself 'I can live on and I will not give up," the two-time world champion told reporters.

Her hard work was rewarded with a 100m back gold medal at the National Games, a Chinese version of the Olympics featuring a similar scale and program. As far as Fu is concerned, the victory has more significance than a gold medal.

"The time is nothing campared with my previous results, but the win is a lifesaver for me," said Fu, whose time of 59.40 in Tianjin was .64 seconds outside the time that won her a 100m back bronze medal at Rio Olympic Games.

"When I was so lost, I did not give up on myself. Instead I continue to work hard. My experience tells me that every drop of your sweat and every effort you make will eventually come back at some point in the form of a reward," said Fu.

After finishing her story, Fu turned back to her humorous side, praising the volunteers for their hospitality and saying "it seems that there are stars in their eyes." Earlier, when she was asked to say a few words to her fans, she suggested that everyone eat more meat.

"Everybody should eat more meat because it is good for your health," Fu instructed.

Fu became an instant worldwide celebrity at the Rio Olympics with her overjoyed response in post-swim interviews.

She said to herself "so fast!" after clocking 58.95 in the 100m back semifinal in Rio and said she "didn't hold back" and "used all of (her) mystic power."

When she learned that she finished a joint third and missed out on silver by 0.01 seconds in the final, she joked that it could be because she had "short arms."

Special Reports