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China’s diving queen

Guo Jingjing

China’s diving queen

Native of Hebei, Guo Jingjing, 29, began her diving career at the age of 6. Incredibly, that meant a late start on most of her peers, although she soon managed to catch up, first making the national team at the age of 11. Three years later, she made her Olympic debut in the 1996 Games in Atlanta.

She has since become the most successful female diver in Olympic history, winning six medals, four of them gold. Guo also posted five consecutive victories at the world championships.

Why is she famous?

Mostly because diving is one of the most popular sports in China. Guo’s success has made her one of the country’s most famous athletes (the “Diving Princess” to her fans).

But also because of her aggressive commercial profile. After the Athens Games, Guo signed a slew of endorsement contracts, only to be barred from the national team for overdoing her commercial push. She was reinstated after she made a public pledge to recommit to diving, famously declaring that “I belong to the nation”.

Why is she in the news?

Chinese media reported early this week that Guo is retiring from the national team, putting an end to speculation on whether she would compete at the 2012 London Games. Xinhua News Agency said on Sunday that the “diving diva” has submitted her application for retirement to the national diving team. The China Daily also reported that Guo was studying English and “preparing for a new life after competitive diving”.

“I think I have fulfilled my task, so the London Games is not what I have in mind now. The opportunities should be given to other members of the team,” Guo told The Bund, a Shanghai-based magazine, in the past week.

Another reason for tabloid interest? She is dating Kenneth Fok, scion of one of Hong Kong’s richest families, but has denied her retirement implies marriage plans, as some in the press have speculated.

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