Who is Gong Lijiao? Olympic gold medallist cuts off interview after series of offensive questions

Joshua Rogers August 6, 2021
Photo by Kaz Photography/Getty Images

Olympic gold medallist Gong Lijiao was recently asked a serious of offensive and inappropriate questions by a reporter. Thousands came out in support of the shot-putter, condemning the outdated and misogynistic questions levelled at her.

Who is Gong Lijiao?

Gong Lijiao is a Chinese Olympic shot-putter who just won gold at the Tokyo Olympics.

The 32-year-old won the bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. She followed that up a year later with gold at the 2009 Asian Athletics Championships in Guangzhou.

In 2016, Lijiao was retrospectively awarded the silver medal for the 2012 London Games. The IOC announced former silver medallist, Yevgeniya Kolodko, had failed an anti-doping test.

Photo credit should read DIRK WAEM/AFP via Getty Images

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Gong Lijiao wins gold at the Tokyo Olympics

In Tokyo 2020, Gong won the gold medal in the women’s shot-put, setting a personal best of 20.58m.

Team USA’s Raven Saunders won the silver medal (19.79m), while New Zealand’s Valerie Adams (19.62) took bronze.

After her winning performance, Gong said: “I’m really, really excited to win this gold medal.

“I’m not only winning this gold medal, I’m also getting my personal best. I think all my efforts were really worth it.”

“I’m really proud to win this competition for my country and not only for myself but also for all the people in China who supported me,” she added.

Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

Why is she at the centre of a media backlash?

Gong Lijiao was recently caught in an online furore after a Chinese state media reporter asked her inappropriate questions during an interview.

The CCTV segment featured the reporter asking the gold medallist when she would “return to being a woman”.

The reporter also said she thought Gong was a “manly girl”. They then proceeded to ask Gong: “What plans do you have next as a girl?”

Gong was then asked whether she haf a boyfriend, and whether she would arm-wrestle a boyfriend.

Gong replied: “I don’t arm-wrestle. I’m very gentle,” before cutting the interview off.

Photo by Tom Weller/DeFodi Images via Getty Images

People condemn the interview and come out in support of Lijiao

People were quick to criticise the inappropriate and offensive interview.

Chinese people in particular condemned the questions, particularly as Lijiao is a modern and diverse representation of femininity and beauty standards.

“She is an Olympic champion, and that is not enough to keep you from bringing up being skinny, getting married and having children?” someone said on social media platform Douban. “It’s 2021; being healthy and confident makes you beautiful.”

“We should not only talk about women’s marriage and appearance but also their dreams and success,” another said on Weibo.

The BBC reports a popular post on Weibo said: “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 BBC reports Gong herself responded to the post, saying: “This totally expresses what I feel! Thank you!”

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Joshua is a senior sports writer with over four years' experience in online writing. He graduated with a BA in Ancient History from The University of Manchester before receiving an MA in Sports Journalism from The University of Central Lancashire. He became a trending writer for a leading social publisher and later spent time covering the 2018 World Cup for The Mirror Online. He then moved to a social marketing agency where he acted as website editor. His specialties on The Focus include F1, tennis, NBA, NFL and combat sports.