Huge backlash after Olympian asked about 'masculine' appearance and marriage in interview

6 August 2021, 16:37

Gong Lijiao won gold in shot put.
Gong Lijiao won gold in shot put. Picture: Alamy

By Emma Soteriou

There has been huge backlash online after a TV reporter asked China's champion shot putter about her "masculine appearance" and when she plans to get married and have children.

Chinese gold medallist Gong Lijiao, who won the shot put final at the Olympics, was asked the question in an interview by China Central Television after saying she was "still more of a girl" inside, despite being described as a "manly woman".

She was was also asked about whether she was in a relationship and if she would win an arm-wrestle against a potential partner.

"You used to be a masculine woman for the sake of shot put. But moving forward, can you be yourself?" the reporter asked.

Lijiao responded with: "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."

In response to questions about hand-wrestling her partner, Lijiao said: "I am not going to arm-wrestle my partner. I’m a gentle person."

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Lijiao got a personal best in the Tokyo Olympics.
Lijiao got a personal best in the Tokyo Olympics. Picture: Alamy

Following the interview, the reporter was widely criticised for their sexist remarks, with some branding it online as "utterly ridiculous".

Speaking on social media platform Weibo, one user said in Chinese: "This is utterly ridiculous and unprofessional. Was there nothing sports-related she could have actually asked instead? I thought we had long moved past these petty sexist stereotypes."

According to SupChina, a discussion also took place on the platform under "Is marriage the only thing we can discuss about women?"

The questions came despite the shot putter making history for China, with her personal best of 20.58 metres earning her first gold medal.

Lijiao was the first Chinese athlete to be crowned Olympic champion in any field event and the first Asian to win an Olympic gold medal in women's shot put.

It was her fourth time competing in the Olympics, having won a medal twice before.