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Funny girl: China’s ‘surprised’ medal winner Fu Yuanhui becomes an instant internet darling

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 10 August, 2016, 4:38am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 August, 2016, 10:37am

Swimmer Fu Yuanhui may have won just one medal for China so far, but her expressive post-race performance has made her an instant internet hit with more emojicons to her name than any of her more famous teammates.

The relatively unknown backstroke specialist has taken social media by storm, with her funny remarks and even funnier facial expressions prompting Chinese netizens to produce a string of amusing emojis.

After she emerged from the pool following the 100 metres backstroke final on the third day of the Games, Fu was asked how she was feeling by the state-run China Central Television network.

“The thing that I would like to share most is that, although I didn’t win a medal …” she began, before being told by the CCTV reporter that she had in fact won bronze.

WATCH: Fu Yuanhui’s inspirational post-race interview

“What?!” exclaimed Fu. “I came in third? I didn’t know!”

The 20-year-old from Hangzhou then suggested the reason she hadn’t won silver was because her arms were “too short”.

Fu is the first Chinese Olympian to win a medal in the women’s 100 metres backstroke, but it was what she said after the semi-finals that won the hearts of Chinese netizens.

Once again, straight out of the pool and standing before the television cameras, Fu had to be told by the interviewer that she had clocked a time of 58.95 seconds.

“What?” she exclaimed, before gulping and opening her eyes wide. “I thought I clocked 59 seconds! That was fast. I am very satisfied,” she declared.

Fu now has 3.5 million followers on the Chinese microblogging website Weibo, up from about 550,000 before the Olympics.

And many Chinese netizens have not been shy about showing their affection.

“I am going to call you my princess from now on,” wrote one.

“I have completely fallen in love with you,” said another.

WATCH: golden moments on Day 3 at Rio Olympics

Weibo was flooded with emojicons made of Fu, with some netizens posting pictures of themselves doing an impersonation of the swimmer.

Fu said she never deliberately exaggerates her expressions. That’s just the way she is.

“I have never thought that I would become so popular,” she said. “That gives me a lot of pressure. I have always thought that people normally would not like my type.”

She then joked that people who like her must have “heavy flavour” – a Chinese expression meaning people with "strange taste".

WATCH: relive the action involving Hong Kong athletes on Day 3 at the Rio Olympics