Chinese netizens outraged after commentator hits out at Olympic hero on social media

Huang Jianxiang did not name the subject of his Weibo post, but netizens believe he was referring to laser radial sailor Xu Lijia, the defending Olympic champion who finished a disappointing 18th in Rio

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 16 August, 2016, 8:15am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 16 August, 2016, 11:21pm

A popular sport commentator with 17 million followers on his Chinese microblogging site has drawn a flurry of anger for hitting out at an unnamed female athlete who spends taxpayers’ money to play a sport that “hardly anyone in the country plays or understands”.

Although commentator Huang Jianxiang did not name the athlete in his Weibo post, netizens believed that he was referring to laser radial sailor Xu Lijia, the defending Olympic champion who finished a disappointing 18th out of the 37 competitors in Rio .

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Xu shot to fame after winning gold in the London Olympics despite having little vision out in her left eye and only 50 per cent of her hearing. She also had a tumour removed from her knee just as her sailing talents were being discovered.

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Commentator Huang first accused the athlete of blaming her failure on how other competitors were being unfair to her.

“There was a female athlete who has spent taxpayers’ money on a sport that hardly anyone in the country plays or understands. She said she was treated unfairly when she was disqualified at the first stage. Is it true that she was disqualified the other times because the whole world wanted to be unfair to China?” wrote Huang, who frequently appears on different television networks as a sport commentator.

“For those athletes who are disqualified because other athletes being unfair to China, should the country say sorry to them?

Chinese netizens believed that Huang was referring to Xu. The athlete was disqualified in three out of the 10 races in total by a sailing jury after protests from other sailors.

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“I just feel pity about yesterday’s disqualification after the protest hearing, but I had to let it go and carry on with the rest of the racing because that’s something that I have control over,” Xu said after one disqualification.

She later wrote on her Weibo that she accepted the defeat with a smile.

“I know that when I look back at the past year, I have given everything I have to the boat and I have no regrets. I would like to thank the country and Shanghai for showing me love, so that I could set sail and follow my dreams,” the Shanghai native said.

Chinese netizens were outraged.

“A brain is something that Huang Jianxiang doesn’t have,” one comment reads.

Another netizen wrote: “What do you mean that someone is using taxpayers’ money to play a sport that few people in China understands? How many people do diving and gymnastics and how many people actually understand the two sports?”

Others urged Huang to apologise.