Why swimmer Fu Yuanhui created an online sensation?

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Chinese Olympic backstroker Fu Yuanhui has stolen the hearts of China’s netizens.  Her unique reaction to winning a bronze medal has gone viral, making Fu a surprise star amongst Chinese fans.

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Screen shots of Fu Yuanhui’s interview after winning bronze

Being Satisfied with Bronze

Fu only realized she had won a medal after a journalist confirmed it in the immediate pool-side interview.  The swimmer had not been able to confirm it due her poor eyesight, that prevented her seeing the results on the  scoreboard clearly.

Her facial expressions and excitement at winning bronze was in stark difference to the usual staid format of Chinese media interviews.

In fact, Fu’s fun and open style, cut-through what has been very uninspiring coverage by China’s official broadcaster – China Central Television CCTV – which has stuck ‘closely to script’, with medal winning athletes often feeling they should lament that fact they did not win gold.

Fu’s joy also cut-through the negativity of the Sun Yang/Mack Horton incidence after the men’s 400 metres freestyle earlier in week.   Chinese netizens vented their disapproval of Horton’s post-event press conference references to Sun as a “drug cheat” – referring to a previous penalty Sun received for using banned substances.

How is Fu Yuanhui going viral?

After her much-adored interview, the content and quotes have become part of animated memes, emojis and dedicated animations.  Online celebrities have almost created their mimicked tributes, to create a viral effect.

The content emphasizes different endearing parts of Fu’s post-medal interview

  • Her shock at winning
  • Her satisfaction with her performance
  • Her humble self-praise “Wow, I was fast”
  • Her inability to put her emotion into words
  • Her explanation for her performance – “I used my inner mystical powers”
  • Her joyful walk away, half-skip
"58.95 seconds'?! OMG!"

“58.95 seconds’?! OMG!”

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Certainly Fu has become a ‘beam of light’ in a somewhat disappointing Olympics for China, where the nation has endured some ‘near misses’ and been usurped in traditionally strong sports, such as artistic gymnastics.

Here is Fu in a cartoon that has become a popular emoji  

I'm very satisfied!

I’m very satisfied!

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I was really fast, wasn’t I

I’ve been utilizing my mystic energy

I’ve been utilizing my mystic energy

Yeah~~~this is Fu Yuanhui

Yeah~~~this is Fu Yuanhui

About Author

Jerry Clode

Jerry Clode is Head of Digital & Social Insight at Resonance. He leads Resonance SMART, providing leading-edge research, strategy and naming for brands in China using bespoke methodologies. Jerry also produces Resonance's popular China Social Branding Report, a bi-weekly publication covering modern marketing methods of the world's top brands.

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