China's Fu Yuanhui attends the awarding ceremony of women's 100m backstroke swimming final at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on Augugust 8. Fu Yuanhui won the bronze medal with 58.76 seconds (XINHUA)
China's newest internet celebrity Fu Yuanhui took bronze in the women's 100m backstroke swimming at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games on August 8, finishing in 58.76 seconds.
On learning about the small 0.01 second difference between her and second place, she retained the good humour that has captivated much of the nation.
"Perhaps it is because my arm are too short," she joked.
Fu was born on January 7, 1996, the generation now dubbed the "post 95s," and became hugely popular as a quirky and highly expressive TV interview that she gave after her semi-final went viral.
In online discussions of Fu and the lively interview, many suggested that understanding her was the key to better understanding Fu's generation in China today.
In just one day, Fu's Weibo account rocketed to over 2.7 million followers. In her profile, she describes herself as "loving cats, dogs,stuffed toys and food; a capricorn mixed with scorpion blood; and someone who regards herself as a quite beautiful boy."
Teammates of Fu said they always believed she would become popular as she has so many facial expression, dares to joke about herself and is always full of witty remarks.
From the National Games, to the Asian Games, to the Olympic Games, it has been quite a journey for the 20 year old from Hangzhou, who is widely admired for her relaxed attitude and good nature.
"I did not reserve my strength. I tried my best ... I am very satisfied with the result and I have never thought about the final," Fu said in her interview after the semi-final.
Besides Chinese Internet users, Fu has also attracted many foreign fans. A Twitter-user commented, "you do not need to know Chinese to understand her good mood."
In less than 24 hours, Fu has been discussed thousands of times on Weibo, WeChat and other digital platforms, with her interview snapshots being used as emoticons and in cartoons.
At the same time, another young athlete, Zhang Mengxue, who won China its gold medal, in the women's 10m air pistol event, was also much discussed.
Zhang's extrenemly calm expression during the competition has been commented on by tens of thousands people online.
In fact, some argue that these young Chinese athletes reflect an entirely new generation who grew up with a fast developing internet, endless information technology, and had more opportunity to develop their own characters compared to previous Chinese generations.
Accelebrated generational shift
"China's post-90s and post-95s generations differ from the post-70s and post-80s generations. They are the direct beneficiaries of China's reform and opening-up policy and had more resources to develop than their parent's generation," said Chen Rui, the executive director of bilibili.com, a popular online TV platform.
Zhao Jun, general manager of a sports copyright operator, said she had noticed the generational shift of sports audiences.
"China's younger generation may one day use their own way to appreciate sports. They will pursue happiness, rather than money and fame," she said.
In this new era, people like Fu Yuanhui are not just heroes and heroines, but also represent the spectators. They reflect the spirit of the new generation of China.
Earlier this year, Fu wrote a post about her 20th birthday.
"I have been living in this world for 20 years, and I have been searching for the meaning of my life and my attitude towards the world. One that only belongs to me and is unique.
"I understand what I've been living for and what kind of life I want. It's simple. Happiness. Love. Gratitude. These are what I want."
It is just possible that she might have been speaking for a whole generation, Fu's Weibo followers found.
(Xinhua News Agency August 10, 2016)