Backlash after Chinese Olympic shot put champion asked if she now plans to marry

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Aug 1, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Lijiao Gong (CHN) celebrates winning the gold medal in the women's shot put during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Olympic Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee/USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA
China's Lijiao Gong won the gold medal in the women's shot put at Toyko 2020 on Sunday. (PA)

A Chinese state TV interview that saw the newly-crowned Olympic shot put champion asked when she would get married and have children has sparked a wave of online anger. 

China’s Gong Lijiao won the women’s shot put at Tokyo 2020 on Sunday with a throw of 20.58m.

The 32-year-old came fourth at Rio 2016, won silver in London 2012 and bronze in her home games in Beijing in 2008.

Following her win in Tokyo, she was asked a series of intrusive questions by an interviewer from Chinese state media channel, CCTV.

Gong was asked when she would get married and have children, whether she had a boyfriend and whether she would arm-wrestle a boyfriend.

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She was described in the interview as a “manly woman”.

The interview sparked wide condemnation on Chinese social media platform Weibo, with many users defending Gong.

The hashtag, “Is marriage the only thing that can be talked about women?" was used by many on the platform.

In the clip, a female CCTV journalist describes Gong as a “manly woman” before interviewing her, the BBC reported.

The athlete says: “I may look like a manly woman on the outside, but inside I'm still more of a girl.”

Aug 1, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Lijiao Gong (CHN) competes in the women's shot put final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Olympic Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Lang/USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA
Lijiao Gong was interviewed by Chinese state TV after her shot put win. (PA)

The interviewer then asks: “Do you have any plans for a woman's life?”

When Gong shows surprise at this line of questioning, the reporter continues: “Since you used to be a manly woman for shot put, do you feel you can be yourself from now on?”

The new Olympic champion replies: “Um… maybe I'll look at my plans.

“If I don't train then perhaps I will lose weight, get married and have children. Yes, it's the path one must take in life.”

Aug 1, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Lijiao Gong (CHN) reacts after winning gold in the women's shot put final during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Olympic Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Nelles/USA TODAY Sports/Sipa USA
Social media users defended Lijiao Gong after the controversial interview. (PA)

She is then asked if she has a boyfriend and if she would arm-wrestle him.

Gong cuts off the interview by saying: "I don't arm-wrestle. I'm very gentle."

The backlash against the interview led to the word “marriage” trending on Weibo.

Many users said the questions were discriminatory and body-shaming.

Hundreds of people left supportive messages on Gong’s own Weibo page.

One user wrote: “It's not that she can't get married, it's that no man is her match.

“When we talk about women, it's not just about marriage or looks, but also dreams and achievements.”

The athlete responded online by posting: "This totally expresses what I feel! Thank you!"

Gong put in a stellar performance to win the shot put, with each of her five valid throws enough to have secured her the gold.

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