GYMNASTICS

Plucky Chinese gymnast Shang Chunsong tells family ‘don’t worry, I’m fine’ after uneven bars defeat

PUBLISHED : Monday, 15 August, 2016, 6:29am
UPDATED : Monday, 15 August, 2016, 1:26pm

The young Chinese gymnast who lifted her family out of poverty failed to win an individual medal in the uneven bars on Sunday, but all she wanted after the setback was for her parents and partially blind brother not to worry.

Shang Chunsong scored 15.433 points to finish in fifth place behind Russian Aliya Mustafina (15.900) who won gold, silver medallist Madison Kocian (15.833) of the USA, and Germany’s Sophie Scheder (15.566) who took bronze.

“I just want [my family] not to worry about me. I am fine. I have not made my dreams come true and I will keep going to make it happen. I want to tell them to take good care of themselves and just don’t worry about me,” Shang said after the contest.

WATCH: relive the action involving Hong Kong athletes on Day 9 at the Rio Olympics

Her journey to the Rio Olympics has been a tough one.

Growing up in a remote village in Zhangjiajie in Hunan province, Shang and her family often went hungry and couldn’t afford heating in winter. Her journey to and from school involved traversing a mountain on the shoulders of her partially blind brother.

She began learning gymnastics at the age of seven and for her to continue, Shang’s family made a number of sacrifices.

“When I was young, my family had to ask around to borrow money so that I could continue training. My brother gave up going to school for me,” the 1.43-metre athlete said.

“But I don’t consider that as pressure. I have turned that into motivation to keep myself going.”

Shang said she did not think she has been particularly brave in lifting her family out of poverty.

“No, I don’t think so. I did what I should have done,” she said.

Because of the prize money earned by Shang, who has won numerous medals in national and international competitions, her family no longer struggle to make ends meet.

“We bought a house in Changsha city. I paid the down payment for my brother,” she said.

The petite athlete shed tears after losing out on a medal by a razor-thin margin in the women’s individual all-around earlier this week, breaking the hearts of her many Chinese fans.

“My family has contacted me and comforted me. I told them that I was fine and that I was not sad anymore. I was for sure sad when that game had just ended,” she said. “I have my regrets here. I wanted an individual medal.”

But she has decided to turn her frustration into motivation. She has pledged to stage a comeback at the Tokyo Olympics in 2020.