Last week Fu Yuanhui, a swimmer from China, won over the world with her unparalleled enthusiasm on the medal podium after clinching the bronze in the 100-meter backstroke. This week, she is making headlines again.
The 20-year-old Olympian just single-handedly brought China into the 21st century with an interview she gave after a recent race. Fu swam backstroke for her country in the 4 x 100-meter medley relay this past Sunday, and her team finished in seventh place. While her teammates were being interviewed, Fu was crouched behind them, clearly in pain. When asked if she was OK, this was her response:
“I feel I didn’t swim well today. I let my teammates down,” Fu said, between gasps of breath. When asked if she was having a stomachache, Fu said: “Because my period came yesterday, I’m feeling a bit weak, but this is not an excuse.”
Women’s periods are not discussed in public in China, and many people from the country didn’t understand, prior to Fu’s interview, how one could swim without getting blood in the water, or even swim at all, while having a menstrual period. In fact, since China puts such a focus on virginity, not one tampon has ever been manufactured in the country. The first line of this type of hygienic product will be launching later this year.
Not only did this Chinese swimmer open the eyes of her compatriots, she brought to the forefront of discussion a topic that is generally not discussed in sports, even in the West:
During the 2015 Australian Open, British tennis player Heather Watson blamed her poor performance on her period after losing in the first round. At the time Watson’s remarks shocked the sports world and later sparked initiatives to break the silence on the issue.
Watch Fu Yuanhui’s brave declaration on the next page.