China’s female swimmer Fu Yuanhui came third in Women’s 100 meter backstroke on Monday morning (Beijing time) and will compete for the final Tuesday. China’s online community has gone crazy about the 1996-born girl, who had won the Kazan World Acoustics Championship in 2015, on Monday not because of her performance in the semifinal or her previous exploits, but because of her ecstatic reaction to her performance during an interview by CCTV, China’s state-owned media, after the semifinal.
Finishing the 100 meter backstroke with 58.95 seconds, Fu, who thought it was 59 seconds, was quite surprised with the result. This was the first moment when she impressed an expectant Chinese audience with her overreaction and body language in front of the camera.
The second time that the young athlete amazed the audience was her honest and straightforward answer to a question raised by the reporter.
“We know that your body condition was not that good in the past year and it’s not easy to have such a result. Do you think you are now as good as before?” asked the reporter.
“It is my best score ever. I have worked for three months on the recovery. Only the ghost knows what I have come through,” said Fu, “It was so painstaking that sometimes I felt like I was going to die. I felt it was better to die than to live when I was practicing.”
Asked whether she was full of hope for the final, she said “No! I am already fully satisfied with the result,” with a hearty smile to the reporter.
Screenshots of Fu Yuanhui in the interview clip Photo: Weibo
GIFs of Fu’s expressions soon went viral on China’s social media platforms such as WeChat and Sina Weibo.
On China’s equivalent of Twitter, Sina Weibo, “Fu Yuanhui” once became the second most popular word on the hot topic list on Monday afternoon, and the hashtag of “2016 Olympic Meme” which was filled with screenshots and GIFs of Fu by Monday night was clicked over 18 million times with over 100,000 comments by Tuesday morning.
“A new Internet meme has emerged after Chinese swimmer Fu Yuanhui’s extreme reaction to her career-best performance in Rio 2016 women's backstroke semi final,” commented CCTVNEWS, adding that Fu’s comment was also part of the meme.
In the interview, Fu used a phrase to describe the great efforts she had made in preparing for the competition, which soon became a buzzword on the Internet.
The phrase, “Hong Huang Zhi Li” (洪荒之力), means “the power which can separate the heaven from the earth in the chaotic world of prehistoric times.” While literally “Hong Huang” refers to the chaotic state of the antiquity, “Li” refers to power in Chinese.
Cartoon of Fu Yuanhui drawn by Chinese netizens Photo: WeChat
“Fu Yuanhui is the mudslide of the swimming circle,” another named @我可是来自星星的i said.
“Hey, girl, have you ever thought about your leader’s feeling when you talk like this?” remarked @lovingboy365008 .
“It seems that the dominant position of the Yao Ming Face is under threat. Fu’s meme is just so cute,” commented another user called @菜菜菜牙刷.
The Yao Ming Face, sometimes referred to as “F… That Guy”, “Dumb Bitch” or “Bitch Please”, is a comic-style drawing of the professional Chinese basketball player Yao Ming wearing a hearty smile which was captured during a 2009 press conference, and first went viral on Reddit in 2010.
Beyond that, many said Fu was so cute in making such expressions, and wished her good luck in the final.
By Monday night, Fu had had got over one million followers on her Weibo page, nearly 129,000 more than that of Apple CEO Tim Cook.
At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, Fu competed in the Women's 100 meter backstroke, finishing in the 8th place in the heats and qualifying for the semifinals. She won the 50 meter backstroke at the World Aquatics Championship in 2015 and helped China win the 4x100 meter medley.