The Rio 2016 Olympics have not yet been under way a week, yet they have already propelled some of China’s competing athletes to a podium of overnight fame.
Mainstream media and social media have been closely watching the rise of some of its competing athletes, and noting the fall of others.
These are some of the key figures who have been grabbing Chinese headlines.
Although she came third in the 100m swimming, Fu has become an overnight superstar after her enthusiastic interview with sports channel CCTV-5. “58.95 seconds?” she says, gasping. “I thought it was 59″! I was that fast? I’m so pleased!” The official Xinhua News Agency also highlights her saying that she used “powers strong enough to change the universe” when she was swimming.
Her CCTV interview has received over 343,000 shares online and Beijing Times says that her fanbase has “multiplied tenfold” since the interview. She now has over three million fans on the popular Sina Weibo microblog.
The video has even encouraged many users to post cartoon sketches of her, and one user ‘Huangwen Yuxiaopenyou’ has posted a video on the popular video website Miaopai of himself “cosplaying” Fu. It has so far received over 2.8 million views.
Media and social media have been closely following the ups and downs of swimmer Sun, especially since his seemingly ungraceful loss in the 400m freestyle.
On 7 July, CCTV-5 shared a video of him crying after losing to Australian rival Mack Horton, which received over 14,000 shares.
Tens of thousands of users posted comments on the video, and while many sympathised with his loss using the hashtag #DontCrySunYang, many said the video makes them “uncomfortable” and called him a “crybaby”.
State media condemned Horton for calling Sun Yang “a drug cheat” before beating him, referring to a short suspension in 2014 when Sun failed a drugs test. People’s Daily went as far as to say Horton’s gold medal was “filled with shame” and “filled with dirty tricks”.
But Sun appeared to have bounced back the following day, sporting an oversized jacket, shades and a baseball cap to face the overseas press.
A journalist from Shanghai’s Observer Net posted a video of Sun being interviewed by an Australian journalist on Miaopai which has been viewed over 22 million times. In English, Sun says “I do not know Mack Horton”, and when asked whether he will beat Horton in the 1500m freestyle, he says “I am the 1500m king, I represent the new world”.
Overseas media may be mocking boxer Lu Bin after he mistakenly raised his hand when the referee announced the winner in a Men’s Light Fly boxing match, but Chinese media are calling him a “hero” and widely circulating an image of him kissing the boxing mat after his match on Monday.
The hashtag #LuBinKissesTheRing is trending with over 7,000 uses, and over 132,000 users have shared CCTV Sports presenter Watson Xuemin’s post of the image.
But Lu has not been as gracious in his own defeat. Today, he posted on his Sina Weibo page that “the referee stole my dream” after he narrowly lost to Kenya’s Peter Mungai Warui.
Thousands of social media users have started using the hashtag #LuBinSufferedControversialPenalty and many are posting memes that criticise the referee.
Over 55% of the 7,000 voting social media users who took part also voted in an online poll say they hope the verdict will be appealed, calling Lu’s 8 August loss “a miscarriage of justice”.
Meanwhile, retired Olympic hurdler Liu Xiang made headlines last week, albeit for all the wrong reasons.
Just before the Olympics, he recorded an episode for reality show The Amazing Race China, dressed in cosplay as 1990s Japanese cartoon character Sailor Moon. Perhaps predictably, that caused a stir online.
While the segment was meant to be humorous, thousands took to social media to mock how “beautiful” he appeared dressed as a woman.
Some criticised his “crossdressing”, saying he “seriously damaged his image” by appearing in such a way, and others said they now find him “disgusting”.
There are also users asking more critically whether he has fallen on hard times since his Olympic fame back in 2004, when he won the first track and field gold medal for China.
If Liu thought the worst was over, he was wrong. A week later, social media users were asking again whether he was struggling financially after he announced that he was filing a lawsuit against online taxi service Didi, China’s answer to Uber.
Xinhua says Liu claims that Didi used images of him without his authorisation in online advertising.