The Chinese had been delighted when figure skater Beverly Zhu gave up her U.S. citizenship in 2018 to represent China in the Olympics. Upon becoming a Chinese citizen, the lifelong Californian, whose parents immigrated from China, changed her name to Zhu Yi.
Ahead of the team figure skating competition this week at the Beijing Winter Olympics, Chinese officials chose Zhu over others who were born in China, according to CNN.
Unfortunately for the Chinese, who had so much faith in Zhu’s talent, her performance has fallen far short of expectations and the once warmly embraced skater has now become a pariah.
The 19-year-old fell during the short program in the team competition on Sunday. She told reporters she was “upset and a little embarrassed” by her performance, according to CNN.
“I guess because I missed the first jump I was just kind of frazzled and felt a lot of pressure on landing that last jump, and unfortunately I popped it,” she said.
“I guess I felt a lot of pressure because I know everybody in China was pretty surprised with the selection for ladies’ singles and I just really wanted to show them what I was able to do, but unfortunately I didn’t,” Zhu said.
Her results were even worse in the free skate on Monday when she fell twice. Zhu finished last, which brought the team from third place to fifth place, with barely enough room to qualify for the next round of the event, according to Fox Sports.
Understandably, the athlete was brought to tears.
“I am relieved because [there is] a lot of pressure and people are expecting a lot. But right now, I’m just going to move on and focus on my individual events,” she said.
Fox Sports reported that Zhu’s disastrous showing prompted “an outpouring of social media vitriol” on Weibo, a widely used Chinese social media platform.
As a result, it said, China “appeared to censor” the videos of Zhu’s blunders.
This should not come as a surprise. The Chinese are not comfortable with humiliation and will go to great lengths to avoid it. They want to be seen as winners.
Fox reported that “the hashtag #ZhuYiFellOver racked up over 230 million views before being deactivated, with searches late Sunday afternoon returning no results.”
The hashtag “#ZhuYiMessedUp” received over 80 million views but was not deactivated, it said.
One Weibo user wrote: “Chen Hongyi is far better than her. I don’t know why someone like this was allowed to represent China.”
“Sure, there’s lots of pressure — but show me an athlete who doesn’t go out there under pressure from their country and people?” wrote another.
A sarcastic commenter wrote: “Congratulations to the Chinese figure skating team for making such a huge contribution to the field of computing!”
Zhu is not done. She will spend the next week training for the singles competition.