Diving is undoubtedly China’s most prolific Olympic sport. In the most recent games in Tokyo, the Chinese won seven of the eight diving events. In fact, it has been a discipline where the Chinese have clinched the most gold medals historically, a total of 47. It is perhaps unsurprising that diving has spawned some of China’s most locally recognised sports stars. Most recently Quan Hongchan, who won the individual 10-metre platform event in Tokyo, has became a media sensation.
Who is she?
Born in 2007, Quan hails from a poor village in Guangdong province’s Zhanjiang. Her dad’s a farmer and her mother has been suffering from epilepsy since being involved in a tragic traffic accident in 2017. Quan started training at the age of seven and last year became a national champion at just 13. She would not have been allowed to compete in Tokyo if the Games had not been postponed for a year because of Covid-19: the minimal age for participating in the diving events is now set at 14.
Having been on the national diving team for less than a year, Quan stunned audiences with nearly perfect dives at the Tokyo Olympiad, which was also her first international meet. Judges and audiences were agog that she barely made a ripple every time she dived into the water from the 10-metre platform. This earned her three perfect scores (out of the event’s five rounds). Her total score also broke the Olympic record.
The results made Quan China’s second-youngest Olympic gold medallist in diving, after Fu Mingxia, who won the 10-metre platform gold at Barcelona in 1992 aged 13.
Guo Jingjing, another of China’s most popular diving divas and one of the judges in Tokyo, said she envied Quan’s achievement. “I’ve never achieved full marks that many times in my 20-year diving career, but Little Quan did that in one go,” remarked an awestruck Guo.
How was the story covered in China?
The youngest athlete in the Chinese Olympic delegation also grabbed attention due to her poor family background and her filial spirit. At a press conference she revealed that she wanted to earn a “lot of money” as an athlete so she could foot her mother’s medical bills. Her biggest dream was to open a supermarket with lots of snacks, in addition to visiting an amusement park (as she’d never been to one).
The news prompted donations of Rmb200,000 ($30,790) from her new supporters, as well as corporate gifts that included a property and a retail space for Quan’s father (who declined the offer). Meanwhile, her home in Maihe village has become a hotspot with hordes of fans gathering there to take pictures and leave presents of her favourite snack, latiao (see WiC522). Some livestreamers even stayed overnight outside of her home, with a few becoming unruly and invading villagers’ privacy. As a trending subject on weibo, “Quan Hongchan’s village asking visitors to behave” has been viewed more than 240 million times, with one netizen chastising the opportunistic livestreamers: “If people are going to her house just to get followers, that’s despicable. Her mother is sick, she shouldn’t be disturbed.”
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