Daily US Times: The pressure on Chinese athletes to perform has soared in a record high. Anything less than a gold medal in athletic competition is being considered and seen as athletes being unpatriotic by furious nationalists online.
Last week, China’s mixed doubles table tennis team made a tearful apology to their fellow citizens – for winning a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
Liu Shiwen said: “I feel like I’ve failed the team… I’m sorry everyone,” bowing in apology, tears welling in her eyes.
“The whole country was looking forward to this final. I think the entire Chinese team can’t accept this result,” her partner, Xu Xin, added.
Their loss in the final match against Japan in a sport China usually dominate had left many furious and many are expressing they anger online.
On the Chinese microblogging platform Weibo, some “keyboard warriors” attacked the pair, saying they had “failed the nation”.
Other social media users made unsubstantiated claims of referee bias towards Japan’s Mima Ito and Jun Mizutani.
As nationalists are attacking the athletes for losing, counting the Olympic medal has become much more than just sporting glory.
For the ultra-nationalist crowd, losing an Olympic medal is being considered “unpatriotic”, according to experts.
Dr Florian Schneider, director of the Netherlands’ Leiden Asia Centre, said: “To these people, Olympic medal tables are real-time trackers of national prowess and, by extension, of national dignity.”
In that context, if someone fails at a competition against foreigners has let down or even betrayed the nation, Dr Schneider added.
The table tennis match at the Tokyo Olympics was an especially bitter pill to digest because it had been a loss to Japan, with which China shares a tumultuous history.
Chinese athletes have continuously performed in the Olympics, but critics say they have to go through strict and inhumane lifestyles to master.