Back in the Swim

The Financial Times profiles 16-year-old Chinese swimmer Ye Shiwen, who won gold at the London Olympics amid widespread, but unproven, accusations of doping:

The responses and statements of Chinese athletes can get lost in translation. After Ye set a world record in the 400m race, she was widely reported in foreign media as having made only the tersest of tweets on her Chinese microblog: “The first day’s competition is finished. The score is satisfactory. Tomorrow I still have the 200m and will continue to strive.” A better translation would have cast her in a much more human light: “First day’s race is over, yay! Extremely pleased with the result, and tomorrow have the 200m, so gotta keep going strong!”


She is aware of the constraints her lack of English presents at international competitions. “I get very nervous before races,” she says. “The atmosphere can be oppressive. The other swimmers joke and laugh with each other but I can’t talk with anyone, and I need to chat to relieve the pressure. It’s hard to take.”
I remind Ye of the packed news conference she gave after she won her second Olympic gold when she faced question after question about whether she had used drugs. She fended them off calmly at the time but today says it remains a sore point. “It made me very angry. I put in so much effort only to have my results called into question.”


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