Sunday, August 10, 2008

Pressure claims its first Chinese athlete

Li Du, gold medalist in the 10-meter air rifle four years ago, had a chance to win the country's first gold medal of this Olympiad this morning. Instead, she placed fifth.

Tearful, she ducked the media and only addressed the media hours later, after, I'm sure, some agonizing self-reflection. Still visibly shaken -- sobbing would be the accurate word here -- she apologized, then expressed her sincere regret for her performance. It was heartwrenching.

Was it enough? That may not be the right question, because people have stopped caring. China is competing in too many events with too many chances to win gold -- in fact, weightlifter Chen Xiexia did win gold soon after Li Du's event concluded -- so right now Li's an afterthought, if even that. Her name has been relegated to the nether of just about every Chinese website. These are the stakes for China's minor athletes: hero or unknown. Separated by the thinnest of lines.

An excerpt for you of this news story:

"I was satisfied by scoring 399 in the qualification round but I was not fully prepared for the pressure of shooting in the final at home," Li said.

[Winner Katerina] Emmons expressed sympathy for Li.

"As far as I can see, there was too much pressure on her," the newly crowned champion said.

"You media just swarmed around her even in her training.

"I can not bear that if I am in that situation, so I can feel what Du must have felt."

Few can.

Good luck, Liu Xiang.

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