Asian Games: China swimmer Sun Yang cries and social media cries with him after a triumphant, draining and emotional week
The 26-year-old, three-time Olympic champion has overcome injury and controversy to emerge as the star of men’s swimming in Jakarta
China’s swimming superstar Sun Yang comes across as arrogant and condescending to his detractors but the three-time Olympic champion showed a softer, more poignant side as he cried on the shoulder of a mainland reporter after winning his fourth individual gold medal at the Asian Games.
And many fans on social media cried with him.
CCTV footage showed an exhausted and emotional Sun bursting into tears and hugging the journalist soon after winning the men’s 1,500 metres – his favourite event – at the Aquatic Centre in Jakarta on Friday, adding to the golds he won in the 200m, 800m and 400m as well as silvers in two relays.
Sun Yang cries after losing to Mack Horton at the 2016 Rio Olympics
Suffering from a bad back that has had him receiving treatment sometimes until 2am in the morning this week, Sun swept the middle and long distance swimming events at a major games for the first time in his career.
“I took part in [an extra] relay and I was very tired,” said the 26-year-old Sun, a three-time Olympic gold medallist who was given a surprise call-up for the 4x100m relay. “Today the back was especially painful. It really depends on your determination.
“I had to keep up with the swimmers who were pushing me, adjusted my rhythm and just gritted my teeth.”
Sun has cried in public before, when he was beaten by Australian Mack Horton in the 400 metres freestyle at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.
He has also had to deal with the controversy over sponsorship dispute between sportswear company Anta – the official Chinese delegation sponsor – and his personal brand 361°. After his first medal in Jakarta, he wore his own brand at the medal ceremony but after complaints from Anta, he switched to the official attire but covered it with a Chinese flag.
Chinese social media mostly praised Sun for his efforts at the Asian Games, though a handful rolled their eyes at his latest antics.
“Sun Yang, you have given a lot of gold medals to China and will always support you. You are the best!”, wrote one netizen.
Another wrote: “Men are also people, they also need to vent their emotions. Sun Yang is a big boy and crying is normal. We are worried about your health.”
Not all of them were impressed, though, with one comparing Sun’s achievements to that of American legend Michael Phelps – who won eight gold medals at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
“Cry, cry, cry! It’s so boring to cry so much, and Phelps’s got eight golds but is not tired!”, wrote the user, failing to point out that Phelps went through a period of depression and is an advocate for raising awareness of mental health issues.
However, someone replied: “What have you got against Sun Yang? He is the pride of the Chinese. You are shameful to the people.”