‘I’m an athlete first, not Internet celebrity,’ Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui says

Chinese Olympian famous for her adorable personality says during visit to Hong Kong that improving herself professionally comes first

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 28 August, 2016, 10:11pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 28 August, 2016, 10:53pm

Chinese Olympic swimmer Fu Yuanhui revealed a slight disenchantment with her newfound fame yesterday, after her adorable personality gained her enormous admiration in Hong Kong.

“My profession is athlete, not an Internet celebrity or an ‘expression package’,” Fu said during a diving demonstration by Chinese medallists at the Victoria Park swimming pool. “I hope I can achieve more professionally, and then, and then I’ve forgotten what I wanted to say.”

The audience all laughed at her cute awkwardness.

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The bronze medallist’s candid yet goofy style has gained her a huge fanbase both on the mainland and in Hong Kong, and the interview she gave when she told media that she had used up all her “mystical power” after finishing her 100m backstroke race at the Olympics quickly went viral online. Her outrageous expressions during the interview, in particular, won hearts, with her eyes so wide they looked as if they were about to pop out of her sockets.

Although Fu and her fellow swimmer, gold medallist Sun Yang, did not take part during the two-hour diving demonstration that started at 9.30am, the excited audience at the pool welcomed the duo with the loudest cheers whenever they appeared on the big screens at the venue.

All members of the audience as well as the media had to go through a security check before being allowed into the stadium yesterday.

Fu and Sun were briefly interviewed by Hong Kong athletes during a break in the demonstration. Sun said he not only aimed at competing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, but he also wanted to go further. He said he saw American swimming legend Michael Phelps, who holds a record of 23 Olympic gold medals, as his goal.

Sport meets politics: visiting Olympians see ‘no reason’ for divide between Hong Kong and China

Most of the 2,500 seats at the swimming pool were filled during the demonstration, with Wu Minxia, Shi Tingmao, Chen Ruolin, Liu Huixia and Ren Qian from the women’s diving team, as well as Cao Yuan, Lin Yue and Chen Aisen from the men’s team performing for the cheering crowd.

Abby Mak Ho-yin, 15, said she had to buy a ticket from an online platform for HK$150, more than seven times the original price of HK$20, as the tickets sold out quickly. It was her first time seeing an Olympic medallist demonstration and she said she did not want to miss the chance, which would come only every four years. “Although politically we have differences [with] the mainland, there is no boundary in sports,” she said. “All athletes should be respected because they spent a lot of time and effort in their training.”

Sherry Zhu and Li Haohao, both mainland students studying at Hong Kong universities, said they queued up for almost three hours to get the tickets for the performance. They added that they would also watch a variety show featuring all the 40 visiting Olympians in the afternoon at Queen Elizabeth Stadium in Wan Chai.

“We came to see Wu Minxia,” said Zhu, referring to the five-time Olympic diving champion. “She’s about to retire and she has won the most gold medals.”